Toe pain: Causes, symptoms and treatment| Physiotattva

How Physiotherapy and Chiropractic Adjustment Helps Toe Pain: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment

Have you ever felt a dull ache or an uncomfortable sensation in your toes? This may be a sign of an underlying condition or injury to the toe. Your toe is made up of 14 bones, including as well as joints, muscles, nerves, tendons, ligaments, and blood vessels. When ignored, these symptoms may worsen and severely affect these components leading to debilitating pain and discomfort. 

Causes of Toe Pain

Since the structures that make up the toe are highly susceptible to injuries and infections, several causal factors can lead to toe pain. 


A joint deformity located at the base of the big toe is called a bunion. It protrudes outwards, forming a conspicuous bump at the side of the foot. This causes the toe to point in the opposite direction and lay over the other toes. 


A rotated toe, or hammer toe, is an abnormal bend of the middle joint in a toe. This condition is mostly observed in the second or third toe. Although this deformity can be present during infancy, several other factors, like tight and pointed shoes, may contribute to the same. 

Ingrown Toenail

One of the common causes of toe pain is an ingrown nail. It usually occurs when the toenails are cut too short or curving in too far while cutting nails. This leads to a tender toe, discoloration, pus, infection, and soreness. 

Turf Toe

An injury to the big toe's joint during sports is referred to as a turf toe. This injury is caused by repetitive movement, for instance, repeatedly bending the big toe upwards or jamming it. 

Symptoms of Toe Pain

Based on the severity and type of the condition, an expert may observe and examine several symptoms. 

Pain and Swelling

Pain and swelling are the two most common symptoms of any condition, including toe injuries. For some, the pain may be acute, whereas others may experience chronic pain. Further, swelling is also observed, but if it is present to an abnormal extent, it may be indicative of a severe toe infection.

Stiffness and Limited Movement

Deformities like bunions, calluses, corns, and more may lead to stiffness and pain. As the condition progresses and due to the constant pressure applied on the toes, the symptoms may worsen and limit your range of movement. Most people with pain struggle to perform basic activities such as walking or running as a result of this. 

Numbness and Tingling

Although uncommon, numbness and tingling are also sensations exhibited along with toe pain. This may be associated with a toe infection leading to burning sensations, lack of coordination, pins and needles sensation, weak pulse in the feet and legs, coldness, and sores. 

Diagnosis of Toe Pain

Experts conduct various tests to gain a complete picture of the condition and the presenting symptoms. 

Physical Exam

During the physical examination, the doctor will assess the symptoms and limited range of motion. This can be done by examining your gait, the height of each step you take, abnormal patterns on the soles of your shoes, scars, and callus formations. Further, experts will also observe your active and passive movements.  

Imaging Tests

Different types of imaging, including X-rays, CT scans, MRIs, and ultrasounds, can give a clearer picture of the point of injury. These tests determine the density of the bones, the positioning of the joints, tumors, infections, and more. 

Blood Tests

In some cases, toe pain can be caused by high cholesterol, artery diseases, and infections which need to be determined through blood tests. To understand the condition better, these blood tests can provide detailed information on protein levels, inflammatory markers, and white blood cell count. 

Treatment of Toe Pain

Once the assessment is completed, and the diagnosis is confirmed, your physician may recommend different treatments to overcome or cope with the pain. 

Rest and Ice

The first step to cope with pain is to rest and apply ice to the point of injury. Applying ice to the affected area for at least 15-20 minutes can help reduce inflammation and pain. It is important to remember that direct contact with the ice to the skin must be avoided as it can lead to frostbite and may aggravate the pain. 


Different forms of physical therapy can be administered to overcome toe pain, including chiropractic care, tissue mobilization, massages, heat and cold therapy, aqua therapy, and acupuncture. These techniques aim to reduce inflammation and tightness and improve flexibility, circulation, and strength of the joints and muscles in the toe. 

Strengthening Exercises

Your physiotherapist may recommend simple and easy stretches like standing calf raises, heel raises, and toe curls to release excessive tension and stiffness in the toes. These exercises allow your muscles to provide support and protection to the foot. 

Range of Motion Exercises

Gentle stretches like toe raises, points, curls, and big toe stretches can help alleviate soreness and improve flexibility. Consistent with these exercises can gradually help reduce pain and improve your range of motion. 

Manual Therapy

Along with stretching and strengthening exercises, hands-on care that targets joints and soft tissue can be beneficial in recovery. In manual therapy, various techniques, including trigger point therapy, traction, lymph drainage, assisted active range of motion, and joint mobilization, are used to facilitate complete recovery and pain management. 

Chiropractic Adjustment

Specialized and certified chiropractors use a non-invasive, hands-on approach to manipulate and realign joints. For toe pain, such adjustments are combined with other forms of physiotherapy as it helps promote a complete recovery. 


Your doctor may prescribe Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), analgesics, corticosteroids, antibiotics, and other condition-specific medications. Although these medications help relieve pain and reduce inflammation, they must be used in conjunction with other forms of therapy. 


For severe cases, experts recommend surgery. Specific procedures like joint replacement/fusion, bone extension/removal, soft tissue repairs, bunion removal, and more can be performed to eliminate the origin of the pain and discomfort. Further, the expert may also suggest toe amputations for specific cases where the infection causing the pain is severe. 

Prevention of Toe Pain

Several preventative measures can be followed to prevent the symptoms from getting worse or even protect your toes from potential injuries or conditions. 

Proper Footwear

Choosing shoes that do not pinch your toes or exert excess pressure on your feet is essential to avoiding toe pain. Experts recommend wearing wide shoes with a low heel and a soft sole. Further, if you have deformities like flat feet, attaching insoles or pads to your shoes can provide the extra support you need. 

Regular Foot Exercises

Basic stretches that help build strength, flexibility, and mobility are recommended. Experts suggest that such exercises also improve circulation. It is important to be mindful of health restrictions while performing foot exercises. 

Maintaining a Healthy Weight

Since your feet bear the body’s weight, maintaining a reasonable amount of weight is essential. Being overweight can add excessive pressure leading to pain and injuries that impair your daily functioning. 

PhysioTattva Clinic: Your Partner in Health and Wellness

Our experts at Physiotattva aim to deliver quality care that meets your concerns. Training and specialized treatment plans are offered to facilitate a smooth recovery from various conditions including toe pain. Contact our experts to seek early diagnosis and treatment at +91 89510 47001. 

Frequently asked questions

How does physiotherapy help alleviate toe pain?

Physiotherapy techniques focus on alleviating inflammation, stiffness, pain, and soreness caused by underlying conditions or injuries to your toes. 

How long does it take to see results from physiotherapy for toe pain?

The duration of recovery may vary based on the severity of the condition. However, in most cases, 4-6 weeks of consistent physiotherapy can help you manage pain and overcome the condition. 

What are the benefits of physiotherapy for treating toe pain?

There are several benefits of physiotherapy for treating toe pain. A few include-

  1. Reducing inflammation and stiffness
  2. Improving circulation 
  3. Reduces dependence on drugs 
  4. Protects potential injuries in the future 

What should I expect during a physiotherapy session for toe pain?

When you seek a physiotherapy consult for toe pain, you can expect a comprehensive diagnosis and assessment of the condition. Our experts will then create a customized treatment plan that includes various physical therapy tools to help you recover completely. 

What types of exercises can physiotherapy offer for toe pain relief?

Our experts recommend stretching and strengthening exercises and range of motion exercises. A few of them include the following- 

  1. Standing calf stretch
  2. Single leg balance 
  3. Toe raises 
  4. Toe curls 
  5. Achilles tendon stretch 
  6. Deep calf stretch