How to Bury the Pain of Capsulitis

A can of Coke, a letter for your future self, an old iPod, and a newspaper clipping: What would you put in your time capsule? In years to come, this preservation of seemingly meaningless artifacts will become very precious, even if you don’t think it is when you bury it. Your feet have a different type of capsule, called the capsular ligaments at the base of the toes. When these ligaments become inflamed, they form a condition called capsulitis. If we were to unpack all the souvenirs of this foot problem, here’s what we’d find.

Oh Look—Inflammation!

This condition is characterized by the inflammation of the capsular ligaments surrounding the joint at the base of the big toe. Ligament inflammation can happen anywhere in the body, and even in other areas of your foot, but when it happens in the toes, it’s called capsulitis.

Normally, the ligaments encapsulate the joint that connects the metatarsal bone to the toe bone. These tissues help the joints function properly and keep the bones aligned. However, they can easily become inflamed and overstretched when excess stress is placed on the joint.

Finding Causes for Pain at the Base of Toes

Foot deformities can be a big cause of this condition. If you have a foot structure that places more pressure on the ball of your foot—bunions, hammertoes, and a second toe that’s longer than the first—you might be more prone to developing problems.

However, lifestyle can be a cause as well. Crouching onto your toes or the ball of your foot for long periods of time could lead to the inflammation. Have you spent a lot of time squatting down to garden, work on electrical outlets, or fix a leaky bathroom faucet pipe? If so, you may be susceptible. Shoes can also be a culprit. High heels and flip flops or flats put a lot of pressure on the ball of your foot.

Symptoms Can Progress

You might have swelling at the base of the toe where the pain is located. It might also be more near the ball of your foot. The symptoms are most common in the second, third, and fourth digits. You could have a lot of difficulty walking barefoot or wearing shoes without extreme pain.

At first, the problem may seem mild, but it will only progress if left untreated. As the ligaments remain inflamed, they weaken and can fail to keep the joint stabilized and toe bones in place. Your second toe might cross over onto the big toe, which is the most advanced stage of capsulitis. This can happen progressively or, if there’s an injury involved, suddenly.

Make Your Condition a Relic of the Past

It’s best to see a doctor as soon as you have symptoms. That way, you can keep the condition from worsening. Before your problem gets really bad, you can treat it conservatively with a change in shoes. It’s that easy! Sometimes, it’s all you need to keep inflammation at bay. Your footwear can also be a roadblock to recovery—if you don’t get a good pair that lessens the pressure on the ball of your foot, your condition might be there to stay.

If you still feel pain, we can prescribe a pair of custom-made orthotics and a metatarsal pad. Surgery may also be an option in the case of hammertoes. Please call Dr. Victoria Melhuish at (775) 783-8037 to make an appointment with Sierra Foot & Ankle. You can also find us on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest!