You have ligaments near the joints in your toes, and when these ligaments become inflamed, it leads to the onset of a condition known as capsulitis. The condition most commonly affects the second toe on your foot, but it can also develop on your third or fourth toe. Below, we take a closer look at why the condition develops, and how to best treat it.
Causes and Symptoms of Capsulitis
The onset of capsulitis is caused by abnormal pressure and foot mechanics. When the ball of the foot beneath the toe joint takes too much repetitive force, inflammation can set in. Repetitive stress, being overweight, having an unstable foot arch, wearing unsupportive shoes and having tight calf muscles can all predispose a person to capsulitis of the toe.
Symptoms of the condition include:
Pain in the ball of your foot
The feeling of a lump or a marble in your shoe
Swelling in the toe
Difficulty wearing shoes
Pain when walking
In more serious cases where the ligaments are very unstable, toe crossover, where the second toe begins to lie across the big toe, can occur. This can occur more quickly if the person continues to overstress the area or suffers an acute injury.
Diagnosis and Treatment
If you’re experiencing any of the above symptoms, or something just doesn’t feel right with one of your toes, reach out to an experienced foot specialist in your area. This is especially true if you believe you’re dealing with capsulitis, because symptoms of the condition are similar to that of Morton’s neuroma, and a clear diagnosis needs to be made so the right treatment plan can be developed.
Diagnosis involves a physical exam and manipulation tests to look for symptoms or signs of joint dysfunction. From there, the doctor will likely work to confirm the diagnosis with imaging tests like an x-ray.
Once confirmed, your doctor will walk you through your treatment options based on the severity of your condition. For minor or mild forms, nonsurgical treatment can work wonders. Some common nonsurgical treatment options include rest, anti-inflammatory medicines, positional taping, stretching exercises and shoe modifications. All of these treatment options work to take pressure off the joint and help to re-stabilize the area by reducing localized inflammation. Most people with early stage capsulitis find that conservative care treatment leads to symptom relief.
For more serious cases, like when the second toe begins moving or has already crossed over the big toe, surgery may be the best option. There are a couple of different procedures a surgeon can use, but the main goal is to stabilize the toe joint and keep it from shifting in the future. Your surgeon can walk you through the specifics of your operation should a surgery become necessary.