Many buildings, bridges, and other structures have cables and support beams to keep them stable. Strong supporters are important—they make structures even sturdier. Your body has supporting structures for your own “building,” too. Ligaments hold your bones together and make standing up possible. However, ligament issues like capsulitis can compromise your stability.

Weakening the Connectors

Capsulitis is the inflammation and weakness of a joint capsule. Where your bones form moving joints, there is a soft-tissue capsule helping hold the bones together. This sheath of ligaments allows bones like your toes to move smoothly while still staying attached. Under abnormal pressure and weight, the ligaments become aggravated and weak. This is most common at the base of the second toe in the ball of the foot, though the third and fourth digits can also be affected.

Poor foot mechanics and preexisting conditions are the main culprits for this toe issue. Anything that directs abnormal, excessive pressure to the ball of the foot can play a role, including footwear like high heels. Fallen arches that cause overpronation are a common contributor. Severe bunions, tight calf muscles, and a second toe that is longer than the first are a few others. The condition is an overuse injury, so the symptoms develop slowly over time. It’s a progressive problem, too, so it will get worse unless it is treated.

Ball-of-the-Foot Pain

As the ligaments of the capsule become inflamed, you develop discomfort under the ball of the foot. You may notice swelling around the painful spot. Sometimes it can feel like you’re standing on a marble or that you have a wrinkle in your sock. You may find it painful to wear certain shoes, too. As capsulitis advances, the ligaments weaken even more. Eventually the digit can begin to drift and dislocate from its natural position. In the end stages, the toe can completely cross over its neighbor.

Treating the Problem

Capsulitis can be treated conservatively if it’s caught early. The later stages of the condition may only be alleviated by surgery. Dr. Sanjay Patel will carefully examine your forefoot to diagnose the problem so you can receive accurate treatment. Our staff will use tests and possibly diagnostic images to confirm the issue and rule out similar conditions. Then we can help you with treating your toe.

You need to alleviate the inflammation to allow the irritated capsule to heal. Rest your foot and avoid all heavy pressure that could make the pain worse. This means taking a break from hard-impact activities. Ice the uncomfortable area to discourage inflammation and swelling. Wearing a compression bandage and keeping the lower limb elevated may help as well. You may need to change your shoes to wear more supportive models, or even add orthotics to control your biomechanics.

Physical therapy may help as well. Stretching out tight muscles and strengthening weakened ones can help combat the effects of the condition. If the problem has already advanced, you may need to tape or splint the toe to keep it in place. If conservative measures are not enough, you may need surgery to repair the damage to the joint capsule and straighten your digit again.

Capsulitis is an uncomfortable problem that can make normal walking and wearing shoes unpleasant. You don’t have to give up your independence and activities because of the pain, though. You can take care of your feet and restore them to full strength. Let Dr. Sanjay Patel at Family Foot Care & Surgery, L.L.C. in Connecticut help you. Use our website or call one of our two offices to make an appointment: 203-876-7736 for Milford, or 203-288-4055 for Hamden.