Most of us will get a bruised toenail at some point. It’s likely because you stubbed your toenail or dropped something heavy on your foot. Bruising can even be due to wearing tight footwear. You need to resolve the cause and heal your sore toenail(s).
Bruised nails aren’t usually severe, but they can be painful. The pain can make it difficult to put weight on your foot, which wreaks havoc with your general mobility. People with severely bruised toenails can experience problems walking for a while.
There are ways to heal your toenail(s) quicker. From home remedies to over-the-counter medications, you can speed up your recovery time. You can be back on your feet in no time.
We’re going to look at the best ways to recover from a bruised toenail. We’ll examine why it’s vital to care for your damaged nail. We’ll then explore things that often cause toenail bruising. If you have bruising now or experience it regularly, you’ll find some useful tips in this guide.
Table of Contents:
- 1 The Science behind Toenail Bruising
- 2 What Causes Bruised Toenails?
- 3 How to Heal a Bruised Toenail Quickly
- 4 Home Remedies for Toenail Bruising
- 5 Is It Fungus or a Bruise?
- 6 Tips To Avoid Bruised Nails – And Recover Faster
- 7 Healing Bruised Toenails
- 8 Read Our Latest Posts:
The Science behind Toenail Bruising
We’ve all experienced bruises on our skin at some point. They start off an angry purple/blue color and slowly fade to a yellowish brown in the following days. But injuries under the nails are slightly different and can take longer to heal.
Bruised toenails are sometimes referred to as ‘subungual hematoma’ – this means bleeding under a nail. This is caused when there is trauma to the nail and the tissue underneath.
Anywhere else on the body, this kind of trauma may cause a regular bruise. Bruises are, after all, are a sign that tiny blood capillaries have burst under the skin. The blood leaks into the soft tissue surrounding the site of the impact, causing the classic discoloration. But what happens when the blood has nowhere to go? It collects under the nail, turning all or part of the nail dark red, blue or black.
When the blood pools under the nail, it can look as though your nail has turned black. This isn’t the case – the discoloration is the damaged tissue underneath, which was partly protected by your nail.
What Causes Bruised Toenails?
Many things cause toenails to become bruised. Here are some of the most common:
- Dropping a heavy object onto your foot. If you’re lifting or carrying something heavy, there’s always a slight risk that you’ll end up dropping it on your foot. If you drop a heavy item and it lands on one of your toes, the immense impact will cause damage to the tissue. This results in a subungual hematoma, and a classic bruised toenail.
- Stubbing your toe on a hard surface. We’ve all been in a situation where we stub our toe on a piece of furniture or a wall. It’s the big toe that bears the brunt of this impact. Many people observe their toenails turning black after a painful stub.
- Wearing incorrect footwear. You might not realize it, but wearing ill-fitting shoes can result in toenail bruising. If your shoes are too small, the repeated rubbing of the toe against the inside of the shoe can lead in bruising. The same goes for shoes which are pointed. If they compress the toes too much, you can end up with bruised nails. Use the best shoe stretcher you can afford to create extra space in your footwear.
- Long toenails. Did you know that not cutting your nails can cause a lot of damage to your feet? Bruising is a common side-effect of having inappropriately long toenails. The overgrown nail rubs against the inside of your footwear. This pushes the nail against your sensitive nail bed, and can also irritate the tissue underneath. There are thick toenail cutters that can help to correct this problem.
- ‘Runner’s toenail.’ If you’re a regular runner or jogger, you might experience blackened toenails more than other people. When running, the toe is repeatedly pushed against the front of the shoe. The more you run, the more likely it is that you’ll suffer bruising. The British Journal of Sports Medicine found that 2.5% of marathon runners in the 1979 New York Marathon had signs of bruising under their toenails.
- Blood-thinning medications. Warfarin and aspirin, for example, make it easier for you to bruise. This means that even a slight stub or small impact to the toe could result in severe bruising.
How to Heal a Bruised Toenail Quickly
If you’re suffering from a bruised toenail, you’ll likely want to know how you can speed up the recovery process. Fortunately, there are lots of tips and tricks that can help restore your toe to a healthy, pain-free state. Here are just a few of the techniques and home remedies you can use to help your bruised toenail heal.
Using an Ice Pack
Ice packs are best used in the immediate aftermath of an injury. The cold temperatures can help prevent inflammation and swelling, reduce bruising and promote healing.
If you’ve experienced a minor toe injury and want to heal the bruising, use this method. Add some crushed ice to a plastic bag. Wrap the bag in a towel, so the cold isn’t too intense. Bags of frozen vegetables also work well for this purpose. Then, apply the ice pack to the injured toe. Hold for twenty minutes every two hours after your injury. This will help get rid of the throbbing pain, as well as reducing swelling.
After that first day, continue to apply an ice pack daily to help speed up the healing process. In some cases, you may be able to prevent the bruising from forming altogether. In other cases, you’ll still get the bruise, but it will heal more quickly.
Warm Water Soak
A daily foot soak in warm water can also help relieve pain and keep the swelling down. Just fill up a bowl with warm water and soak your feet for around fifteen minutes. You can also add a few drops of an essential oil. Lavender oil, tea tree oil, eucalyptus oil and salts (Epsom salts or dead sea salts) are all effective at fighting bacteria and keeping feet healthy.
Keep Feet Elevated
It’s important to try and reduce blood flow to the site of the injury – in this case, the toe. The more blood flows in that direction, the more likely it is that you’ll develop a bruise. Let gravity do the hard work for you. Keep your foot slightly elevated at all times when sitting or lying down. This will relieve pain and swelling, reducing the likelihood that you’ll develop a bruise under the nail.
Painkillers available over-the-counter at any pharmacy can help with inflammation and pain from a bruised toenail. Paracetamol and ibuprofen can all help – but aspirin is a blood thinner and may make the bruising worse, so choose carefully.
Like any injury, your bruised toenail won’t get better if you keep putting pressure on it. In fact, you may end up causing more damage to the injured area. It’s common for your feet to ache if you’re on your feet at work. Try to avoid all strenuous or vigorous activity until your recovery has reached a satisfactory point. Walking should be fine, but any other exercise should be avoided for the time being.
Home Remedies for Toenail Bruising
Mother Nature is miraculous and offers many things that can help speed up human healing processes. Check out these home remedies that will help your bruising heal quickly. Remember: these shouldn’t be used as substitutes for the tips above, but rather as complementary treatments. If the bruising on your toenail is exceptionally severe and causing you unmanageable pain, you should see your doctor.
Arnica has been used as a treatment for bruises for centuries. It’s a herb in the sunflower family, and it has anti-inflammatory properties. This means it’s perfect for relieving swelling and pain when you’ve stubbed or injured your toe.
Arnica comes in a variety of forms. There are arnica gels, creams, and even tincture available to buy. They all work in the same way, so it’s personal preference which one you choose. Arnica gel will dry much more quickly, while arnica creams are much easier to get hold of. If you use arnica tincture, you’ll need to dilute it with water first. Apply the arnica solution to your toenail and the surrounding area every day until your bruising has faded.
Aloe vera is another one of nature’s most powerful healers. It’s used for a multitude of skin complaints and issues, and it’s excellent for reducing bruising in awkward areas.
Aloe vera comes in a plethora of forms. If you’re lucky enough to have an aloe vera plant in your own home, you can extract the gel yourself and use it straight from the leaf. Alternatively, you can pick up a ready-made gel or cream which will do the same thing. Just apply the aloe vera treatment to the bruised toenail a few times per day until the bruising disappears.
Every household has a good supply of salt, whether it’s table salt, sea salt or rock salt. It’s easy to create a saltwater solution, which can help boost circulation and keep the area clean.
Just add two tablespoons of your preferred salt to a bowl of warm water. Stir until all the salt has dissolved. Then sink your feet into the solution for up to ten minutes. You can repeat this treatment up to three times a day to ensure the area around your bruised toenail is kept clean and healthy.
Turmeric is a popular spice in many Indian foods – but did you know it’s also a very strong anti-inflammatory? It can help relieve the swelling in your toe, which will reduce the bruising.
To create your own turmeric treatment, mix a tablespoon of dried turmeric powder with enough water to turn it into a paste. You should apply this paste to your toenail twice daily. Whenever you apply the paste, make sure you leave enough time for it to soak in and do its job. Otherwise, you might end up having to wipe it off before you leave for work or get in bed!
Is It Fungus or a Bruise?
If you notice discoloration of your toenail, you might instantly think it’s bruising. If the toenail has taken on a darkened appearance, it’s natural to assume you’ve bruised it somehow. But discoloration can also be a sign of toenail fungus, which can cause a whole host of other issues for your feet.
Here are a few tips to help you tell whether it’s fungus or a bruise:
- If your toenail has black spots, it’s likely to be a fungus. A bruise will present as a primarily darkened area, not in spots.
- The toenails have started to crumble. This means a fungal infection is eating away at the tissue underneath your toenails.
- Your toenails are thicker. This is also a sign of a fungal infection.
- There’s a foul smell around the toenail. If you’ve noticed a strange odor that won’t go away no matter how many times you wash your feet, it’s likely fungus under the toenail.
- The toenail is separating from the nail bed. In some cases, a bruised toenail will simply fall off after a certain amount of time. However, if you have a fungal infection, you might notice the toenail starting to lift from the nail bed. This is an entirely different issue and needs to be addressed before it starts to cause you severe pain.
Many of those who are at risk of developing bruised toenails are also at risk of developing fungal infections. Runners and joggers who regularly sweat into their footwear are particularly prone to fungus.
If you have developed a toenail fungus infection, speak to a doctor immediately. There is also a range of natural remedies and solutions you can try to help rid your toenail of the fungal infection. It can take a matter of months to rid your nail of fungus completely, so have patience and persevere with your chosen treatment.
Tips To Avoid Bruised Nails – And Recover Faster
Here are some additional tips to help you avoid bruised toenails – and recover from them quickly if you do find you’ve developed one.
- If you work in a profession where the risk of dropping heavy objects is high, always wear protective footwear. Steel-toed boots can help ensure you don’t bruise or break your toes in the workplace.
- Keep your toenails trimmed neat and short. Long toenails can rub against the inside of your shoe and cause gradual bruising over time. Overgrown nails can also cause fungal infections, so it’s in your best interests to keep them reasonably short.
- If you’re a jogger or a runner, go to a professional to have your running shoes fitted. Many specialist stores offer gait analysis to ensure you choose shoes that won’t put unnecessary pressure or strain on your toes.
- Make sure you lace up your footwear correctly, and wear appropriate socks underneath. These can help cushion the repetitive pushing of the toe against the front of the shoe, as well as wicking away moisture and sweat.
Remember, if your so-called jogger’s toe isn’t improving after a number of weeks, you should see a doctor.
Healing Bruised Toenails
Having a bruised toenail can be inconvenient – especially if you’re a very active person. The pain caused can make it hard for you to get around like you used to. The more pressure you put on the area, the more you risk making the injury even worse. It’s natural that you’ll want to do everything you can to speed up the recovery time.
Fortunately, there are lots of things you can do to ensure your bruised toenail doesn’t bother you for long. From cold compresses and warm soaks to salt baths and maintaining elevation, there are many ways you can stop bruises in their tracks and reduce pain and inflammation.
Natural remedies can also be helpful in encouraging the bruised area to heal. Aloe vera is one nature’s most popular healing products, with potent antibacterial, antifungal, and anti-inflammatory properties. Whether you extract the gel from your own plant or buy a ready-made aloe vera product, you can rest assured this natural ingredient will aid your recovery.
Essential oils and arnica can also be helpful, ridding the area of bacteria and keeping swelling to a minimum.
The most important recovery tip for those with bruised toenails is not to exert yourself too much until the bruise has healed properly. You might end up impeding your recovery and adding more time onto the healing process.