Inflamed ligaments (capsulitis)

Capsulitis is a common condition that can occur at any age. It gets its name from the fact that the ligaments surrounding the joint at the base of the second toe form a “capsule”, which helps the joint to work properly. When these ligaments become inflamed, the condition is known as capsulitis. It can also occur in other toe joints, and, if left untreated, can cause dislocation of the toe.

Capsulitis is thought to (usually) result from the ball of the foot taking an excessive amount of pressure.

Capsulitis is a progressive disorder, which means that it usually gets worse if left untreated. So early recognition and treatment are important. Symptoms during the early stages typically include:

  • Pain, particularly on the ball of the foot.
  • Swelling around the base of the toe.
  • Discomfort or pain when wearing shoes.
  • Discomfort or pain when walking barefoot.

The symptoms of capsulitis can be similar to those of a condition called Morton’s neuroma. As the two conditions are treated differently , it’s important to get an accurate diagnosis.

As with many physical conditions, the best time to treat capsulitis is during the early stages.  During this stage of the condition, non-surgical treatments can be effective in stabilising the joint and reducing symptoms. Non-surgical treatments include:

  • Resting the the foot and using ice packs to help reduce the swelling and pain.  
  • Oral medications. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen, may help relieve pain and inflammation.
  • Taping/splinting – this can help keep the toe in the correct position.
  •  More appropriate shoes - stiff-soled shoes are best because they help to reduce pressure on the ball of the foot.
  • Orthotic devices, such as arch supports or a metatarsal pad. These reduce pressure on the joint by distributing weight.