When a toenail grows into the flesh on the side of your toe, instead of growing outward like it's supposed to, this is known as an ingrown toenail. Ingrown toenails can be quite painful and they can also easily become infected if not treated properly. Luckily, there are things you can do to get rid of your ingrown toenail quickly and hopefully prevent any more from showing up. Here are six tips for treating and preventing this common but painful condition:

Avoid Tight Shoes

Wearing comfortable, properly fitting shoes is always a good idea, but especially when experiencing an ingrown toenail. Tight, ill-fitting shoes will only make your toenail even more painful and increase the risk of infection. This is the time for wearing comfy sneakers, not tight high heels or uncomfortable boots.

Moving forward, you should continue to avoid tight shoes after your ingrown toenail grows out, since tight shoes can sometimes cause ingrown toenails to form in the first place. You should be able to wiggle your toes inside your shoes and should never feel pain or discomfort from wearing them.

Cushion the Nail

Until the ingrown toenail grows out, you can make yourself more comfortable by providing it with a bit of cushioning. Simply place a small piece of soft cotton or moleskin against the toenail, inside your socks, to reduce friction and help protect the nail from becoming more irritated.

Try an Epsom Salt Soak

Soaking your feet in warm water with Epsom salt helps in a couple of ways. First, the soak will help reduce pain and make your foot feel much more comfortable. Second, soaking your feet will reduce swelling and inflammation (the Epsom salt amplifies this effect), which may help the ingrown toenail to naturally grow out on its own. Try soaking your feet for 15 or 20 minutes, two to three times a day.

Attempt to File It in the Right Direction

Once the swelling goes down a bit from soaking your feet in warm water and Epsom salt, you can attempt to gently file your ingrown toenail in the correct direction. Use a nail file to gently pry the ingrown toenail from the flesh of your toe, directing it outward. This step will be the most effective immediately after soaking your feet, when your nails are soft and pliable. If this step is painful or the nail resists, discontinue immediately.

See a Podiatrist

If your ingrown toenail doesn't grow out on its own naturally within a week or so, or it becomes infected, it's time to see a podiatrist. A podiatrist will examine your toenail and provide an appropriate medical intervention, which may include a simple surgery. Your podiatrist will ensure you experience immediate pain relief and will treat any infection, while also giving you advice for preventing the problem from coming back.

Use Proper Nail Clipping Techniques

The most common cause of ingrown toenails is cutting your nails way too short. Cut your nails neatly straight across, without rounding the edges, and never cut them painfully close. If you get pedicures, only go to reputable, licensed spas or nail salons, where the nail techs will not over-cut your toenails or aggressively file them.

Speak up if a nail technician begins to cut your nails too short, and tell them you prefer them a tiny bit longer. The edge of your cut toenail should reach the tip of your toe, rather than being cut beneath it.

Ingrown toenails are annoying and can be painful, but they're not the end of the world. By following these simple steps, you will soon experience relief from your painful ingrown toenail and hopefully prevent any future recurrences.  Contact a company like Laurel Podiatry Associates, LLC for more info.