When there are moving parts—especially in a device as intricate as the foot—it is important that they be kept aligned and protected. Wherever bones form a joint in the body, ligaments form a “capsule” surrounding it. This helps to keep everything in place and moving smoothly within its full range. While ligaments are tough, they can still become inflamed if too much stress or pressure is placed on them over time. This is known as capsulitis and, while it can happen at any joint, we will concentrate on the condition as a cause of toe pain.
Between a Joint and a Hard Place
Capsulitis is most frequently seen in the joint of the second toe, although other toes are certainly not immune. The condition usually begins as a sort of nagging pain in the ball of the foot, which might be accompanied by the feeling like there’s a small foreign object in the shoe or sock. Pain can grow worse while walking barefoot, and there may be some swelling at the base of the toe as well.
A number of different factors can contribute to inflammation of ligaments around the toes. Work that involves a lot of stooping or flexing strain on the toes, such as plumbing or carpentry, can cause inflammation.
The foot can also be naturally shaped through genetics to be more prone to stressing the ligaments. Those who have a first metatarsal bone significantly shorter than the second, for example, may find more pressure being exerted at the base of the second toe. Even without heredity, though, high heels and unsupportive footwear such as flip-flops can cause overstretching of the ligaments.
Earlier Found, Better Treated
Capsulitis tends to grow progressively worse without treatment, and in advanced stages the ligaments may begin to weaken and fail. This will leave the joint unstable and can cause a toe to drift over and eventually overlap a neighboring digit.
Naturally, the best time to begin treating this condition is before the toe begins to grow unstable. An early diagnosis is critical, as conservative measures can be taken to stabilize it in the beginning. Once the toe begins to drift, the chances of needing corrective surgery increase.
Care in the early stages may vary depending on the location and severity of the inflammation, but will almost always involve staying off the affected foot to some degree. Ice and oral medications can help reduce pain and inflammation during this time.
If abnormalities in foot and leg structure are found to be causing the problem, stretching exercises may be recommended to help strengthen and lengthen the muscles that support the joint. Custom-made orthotics or modifications to footwear might also be made, to provide additional comfort and draw extra pressure away from the sensitive ligaments.
If a toe does begin to drift, it will never return to its original position on its own. In early stages of drifting, it might be possible to tape the toe to make it stay in the correct spot and prevent additional shifting. Otherwise, surgery may be the only option to correct the toe.
Treatment for Capsulitis in Richardson, TX
If you or a loved one has been experiencing ball of foot or toe pain that hasn’t gone away, don’t delay any longer. Come see Dr. Gene Reister and the expert staff at Richardson Podiatry Associates. We can get to the root of your discomfort and kick your capsulitis to the curb. Schedule an appointment with our Richardson, TX office by calling (972) 690-5374.