Whether you smashed your toe into a table leg or tripped over a sidewalk, it doesn’t matter how it happened: A stubbed toe is a universally shared experience. Everyone, at one time or another, has felt that sharp pain and throbbing when stubbing a toe.

Here’s everything you need to know about treating a stubbed toe.

When you stub your toe, you’ll typically experience all or some of the following symptoms:

  • throbbing toe pain
  • swelling
  • bruising
  • bleeding from the nailbed
  • trouble walking
  • trouble comfortably putting on a shoe

Some symptoms warrant a trip to your doctor. See your doctor if:

  • your toe is noticeably deformed
  • your toe has abnormal bruising
  • the pain is making it difficult to walk
  • the pain intensifies if you try to move the toe
  • you’re not able to move the toe
  • a bone is exposed
  • your toe becomes unusually pale
  • your toe is cold to the touch
  • your foot feels numb

As soon as possible after stubbing your toe, follow the RICE method for injury treatment:

  • Rest. Stop using your toe, lie down, and let your body recover.
  • Ice. Use ice to numb the pain and reduce swelling. Wrap the ice in a towel so it doesn’t touch the skin directly.
  • Compression. Wrap your toe, or the entire end of your foot and toes, with an elastic bandage to provide support and keep swelling under control.
  • Elevation. Keep your foot raised above the level of your heart to reduce discomfort and swelling.

If you need pain relief, consider an over-the-counter pain reliever, such as:

Depending on the severity of the injury, your doctor might want an X-ray to determine if you’ve broken a bone. Your doctor might also immobilize your toe. This is often done by “buddy taping.” Your doctor will tape the injured toe to the healthy toe next to it.

Your doctor might even suggest a medical boot to protect your injured toe from further trauma.

In some cases, your doctor might recommend a surgeon to position your bones for proper healing with the use of pins or plates.

To reduce your chances of stubbing your toe, follow these steps:

  • Avoid walking barefoot.
  • Be mindful of “stub-worthy” objects, such as bed frames, uneven sidewalks, and chair legs, especially when you’re in a hurry.
  • Wear closed-toe shoes.
  • If your work environment includes a risk of feet trauma, wear protective shoes.

Your toes lead the way with every step. It’s inevitable that you’ll occasionally stub a toe. A minor trauma is easy to deal with using basic home care. But if your toe injury is severe, visit your doctor for appropriate treatment and to ensure a healthy recovery.