What is Capsulitis?

What is Capsulitis?

Do you sometimes have the feeling that there’s a rock in your shoe when there isn’t, or that your sock is bunching up under your foot? Do you experience pain in the ball of your foot, difficulty walking—especially when barefoot, and swelling around the base of the toe next to your big toe? If yes, then you may be suffering from Capsulitis. This condition occurs when the ligaments that surround or “encapsulate” the joint at the base of the big toe become inflamed. Capsulitis is fairly common and something we treat regularly at Great Neck Family Foot Care. It can occur at any age and is thought to be the result of abnormal foot mechanics that allow the ball of the foot beneath the toe joint to absorb excessive pressure from weight bearing. People with a second toe that is longer than the big toe, a structurally unstable arch, tight calf muscle, or severe bunion deformity are more likely develop Capsulitis.

Prompt Medical Attention Required

Not only does Capsulitis cause pain and discomfort, it is also a progressive disorder. Left untreated, the symptoms will worsen. The ligaments surrounding the joint will weaken and the second toe will begin to drift toward the big toe, eventually crossing over it. The toe can then become dislocated, requiring surgery to correct. Capsulitis is a condition you want to detect and treat in its early stage so if you are experiencing any of the above symptoms, don’t delay in making an appointment with one of our board certified foot and ankle surgeons, Dr. Alec Hochstein or Dr. Diana Gagliano to get it checked out. The podiatrist will conduct a careful exam and will probably press and move your foot around to reproduce the symptoms, as well as test the stability of the joint. Your foot doctor will take a complete history and ask questions about when you first noticed symptoms and when the condition seems the most aggravated. Digital x-rays will usually be ordered (which can be done right in our Great Neck office) and sometimes other imaging tests as well to confirm the diagnosis.


There are several treatment options available:

  • Medication and Icing—Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and icing will relieve pain, swelling, and inflammation. Your foot doctor will also recommend resting your foot until symptoms lessen.
  • Splinting or Taping—These will help the toe stay in the correct position and prevent drifting
  • Footwear Modifications—Stiff soled, supportive shoes will lessen the pressure on the ball of the foot. Custom orthotics may also be recommended to distribute weight away from the joint.
  • Stretching—Exercise to loosen the calf muscles can help minimize this cause of Capsulitis.
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