A common cause of pain in the ball of the foot and toe joint that we see frequently at New England Foot & Ankle Specialists is Capsulitis. This is an inflammation of the ligaments that surround the joint at the base of the big toe and usually occurs in the second, third or fourth toe. This will result in pain and swelling at the base of the big toe, making wearing certain shoes uncomfortable and possibly limiting the range of motion of the toe. Since these symptoms can indicate other disorders such as Morton’s Neuroma or sesamoiditis, it’s important to get a correct diagnosis of your condition before treatment can begin to alleviate the symptoms.
Our podiatrists: Dr. George A. Abboud, Dr. Brian D. Tedesco, Dr. Carl Conui, and Dr. Kimberly Thurmond will start by taking a complete medical history and then examining your toe. The foot doctor will check for range of motion and may order an x-ray or other tests to rule out other disorders. The podiatrist will want to know about your lifestyle—jobs or activities that require extensive squatting or climbing can overstretch the ligaments, causing inflammation. Certain structural abnormalities, such as bunions or one toe longer than another can also make you more prone to developing Capsulitis.
Capsulitis will only get worse if left untreated. In fact, without correction, the affected toe will eventually begin to drift toward the next toe and may become completely dislocated and overlap the next toe. Once Capsulitis progresses to this stage, surgery will be needed to correct it. That’s why seeking treatment in the early stages of the disorder is extremely important. There are several non-invasive options available that are effective when the disorder is diagnosed early. These include:
- Orthotics—shoe inserts custom designed for your feet can help correct foot structure issues and take the weight off the inflamed ligament and joint
- Taping and splinting—this will prevent the toe from moving out of place and alleviate pain
- Stretching—in some cases, a tight calf muscle is the cause of Capsulitis; exercises can stretch the muscle and greatly reduce symptoms
- Shoe changes—choosing shoes with stiff soles will reduce the pressure on the ball of the foot.
Make an appointment at either our Reading office sooner rather than later if your big toe or the ball of your foot is bothering you. Prompt attention can head off a more serious problem that will require much more extensive medical treatment in the future.