Why Does it Hurt So Much When I Stub My Toe?

Stubbing your toe can be a major pain--and cause a serious injury!When it comes to your feet, sometimes even the smallest of injuries can pack a major punch in the pain department. Ever wondered why that’s the case?

From a podiatrist’s perspective, it makes perfect sense—I know firsthand just how painful a toe injury can be, but it can be hard to explain to someone who doesn’t think about these appendages as much as I do. That’s why I love the explanation I came across in an article for the Men’s Journal on the 5 Most Painful Everyday Injuries.

Basically, when you stub your toe, you are jamming the tissue into your bone and pushing your bone into the joint. That’s when the hurt starts to happen. The pain is magnified due to the fact that the toe has a ton of sensory nerves, but not that much fatty tissue or muscle to pad around them. Also, your toe can’t bend, so there’s nothing to mitigate the force of the impact when you hit a wall, door or other immovable object. Instead of the hurt being shared between the foot, ankle and leg, it all stays localized in that small, sensitive area, causing a pain unlike most others.

If you can think clearly through the discomfort, there is a trick you can try to help mitigate the pain. If you massage the area right away, you can bring positive feelings to the toe that compete with the pain signals, helping the throbbing to die out quicker.

While this explains some of the problems you experience with a toe stub, there are actually times when you can do real, lasting damage with this seemingly minor injury. If your toe is still hurting hours after a stub, you may have done real damage or even sustained a fracture (which means all the massaging in the world won’t make things better.) If you suspect you may have broken your toe, schedule an appointment with Dr. Andrew Schneider immediately to avoid doing further damage.

Dr. Andrew Schneider
Dr. Andrew Schneider is a podiatrist and foot surgeon at Tanglewood Foot Specialists in Houston, TX.