Capsulitis is an inflammatory condition affecting a joint capsule. In a podiatry practice, we usually see this happen in the ball of the foot, at the location of the second metatarsal head. The inflammation usually results from overuse injuries, where excessive load from arthritis, repetitive activity, trauma or footwear choice (such as high heels) stretch the joint ligaments.
Patients with capsulitis will first report tenderness and minor swelling in the ball of the foot. If left untreated, this can progress to more severe pain in the toe joints, stiffness throughout the forefoot, and difficulty walking. The second toe joint is also a common location for Morton’s neuromas, or even metatarslagia, so you should see a podiatrist for diagnosis if you have these symptoms in the ball of the foot.
Treatment for capsulitis requires relieving pressure on the affected joint, usually through a change in footwear or the use of cushioned orthotics. If you perform repetitive tasks (work or sports related) you may be advised to limit or reduce activity during recovery. RICE treatment is often recommended to reduce swelling, and NSAIDs can help with pain and inflammation (consult your doctor before taking any medication). If these treatments don’t relieve pain, a corticosteroid injection can help ease symptoms more quickly.