Stubbing your toe is right up there with hitting your funny bone. It's a terrible pain in a really small place, and you cringe just imagining it.

So now, imagine that pain happening constantly and you didn't stub your toe. It's not always just an annoyance. It could be a sign of a more serious health issue.

Here are 5 reasons why your big toe might be hurting, explained by absolutely terrible puns.

1. Arthritis: Feels Like Arth-wrong-is

Arthritis refers to joint pain or joint disease. Amazingly, there are over 100 types of arthritis and related conditions, according to the Arthritis Foundation (AF).

It's an extremely common condition, the AF says over 50 million adults and 300,000 children have some form of arthritis. And unfortunately, it's the most common cause of disability in America.

Several types can impact the big toe, including osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. Both types can cause pain, as well as loss of function, the AF says. While neither can be cured, there are treatments to ease the pain, such as medications, says the American College of Rheumatology (ACR).

Excess weight can worsen arthritis, so the AF recommends exercising and eating well in order to stay at an optimal weight and decrease symptoms.

Fact: Every pound of extra weight adds 4 lbs of pressure on the knees. This can create premature damage in the knee joints.

Also read: Beating Joint Pain: Getting Back to Life

2. No Doubt A-Gout It: Big Toe Pain Might Mean Gout

Gout is a potentially severe type of arthritis, and one of the first signs is big toe pain. Here's the good news: Gout can be treated before it gets too serious. Here's the bad news: left untreated, it gets worse, according to the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS).

This is a fairly disabling stage called chronic tophaceous gout, the NIAMS explains. It develops over a long time like 10 years. Can you imagine 10 years of toe pain? Ouch.

At this stage, gout can cause permanent damage to the toe and to the other joints, such as ankles, wrists, heels, fingers, knees, and elbows. It can even cause permanent damage to your kidneys. The bottom line? Get in early for treatment.

What Causes Gout?

Gout occurs when your body produces too much uric acid or the kidneys can't eliminate uric acid from your body, says the NIAMS. The excess gout builds up crystals around your joints, and not the pretty Swarovski-style crystals.

Certain foods and drugs are known to increase uric acid levels, the ACR says, including:

  • Red meats and shellfish
  • Excess amounts of alcohol
  • Drinks and foods that are sugary and high in fructose
  • Medications like low-dose aspirin, immunosuppressants, and some diuretics

If you think you've developed gout, talk to your doctor about a treatment plan that's right for you.

Also read: Joints Smooth Movement or Pain?

3. Bunions: They Aren't Fun-ions

A swollen, sore bump on the joint that connects your big toe to your foot could be a bunion, says the the American Orthopaedic Foot & Ankle Society (AOFAS). The big toe can get larger and stick out, and shoes become painful. Eventually, you can develop bursitis, a painful swelling.

After a while, your toes can become misaligned and overlap with one another, making the foot look deformed. But it's not just a vanity issue. Untreated bunions can cause difficulty walking, severe big toe pain, and arthritis.

Anyone can get bunions, but the AOFAS reports that 9 out of 10 cases are in women, perhaps because a major cause of bunions is wearing shoes that are too tight. And ladies, you all know that a lot of the cutest shoes happen to be a bit tight and that men are wearing socks and sandals rather than tight heels.

How can you prevent bunions? It's not hard. The AOFAS recommends:

  • Don't force your feet into shoes that are too small.
  • Wear shoes that are well-matched to the shape of your feet. Look for wide insteps, broad toes, and soft soles.
  • Avoid pointed shoes, or heels higher than 2 inches.

If you have a bunion, roomy shoes and protective pads can help you. If the bunion has created too much damage, you might need surgery, the AOFAS says. Talk to your doctor if you have any questions.

4. Fractures: Complications Are Afoot

Ever heard someone say that there's nothing you can do for a fractured toe or foot? Well, that's not exactly true. If you think you might have a fractured toe, the American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons (ACFAS) says it's important to see your physician.

Not treating a fracture is serious and can lead to: Limited ability to move the foot, difficulty fitting shoes, arthritis, deformity, and failure to heal, which can lead to chronic pain and need for surgery.

Fortunately, fractures don't always mean surgery. According to ACFAS, there are plenty of non-surgical treatments like rest, wearing a splint, switching to a certain type of shoe, or taping the fractured toe to another toe. Your physician can tell you what's best for you.

5. Ingrown Toenails: More Like In-GROAN Toenails

Ingrown toenails can happen for many reasons, like trimming your nails improperly or wearing tight-fitting shoes. Sometimes, you're just born with it. Regardless of how you get them, it's important to treat ingrown toenails, says the ACFAS.

Usually, you can just treat them at home by soaking your foot in room-temperature water and gently massaging the side of the nail fold to reduce swelling.

However, there are times when you need to see a physician. The ACFAS strongly recommends this if the toenail becomes infected, or if you have medical conditions that put your feet at high risk, like nerve damage in the foot, poor circulation, or diabetes.

There is a whole host of other conditions that could cause pain in your big toe, so do not ignore pain. Go to or call (208) 455-3981 for a referral to one of our expert orthopedic specialists.

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