Capsulitis of the Second Toe: Causes, Symptoms, Surgery.

I woke up one morning with a sharp pain in my second toe. I couldn’t move it without pain, and it was swollen and red. I went to the doctor, who diagnosed me with capsulitis of the second toe.

Capsulitis is a condition that causes inflammation of the joint capsule around the second toe. It can be caused by a number of things, including repetitive stress, injury, or poor foot alignment.

The doctor told me that the best way to treat capsulitis is to rest the toe and avoid activities that put stress on it. He also gave me a brace to wear to help support the toe.

I followed the doctor’s instructions, and the pain in my toe started to go away after a few days. I was able to start moving the toe again after a week, and the swelling and redness went away after a few weeks.

I’m glad that the doctor was able to diagnose my condition and give me the right treatment. I’m now back to my normal activities, and I’m careful not to put too much stress on my second toe.

What is Capsulitis of the Second Toe?

The ligaments around the joint at the base of the second toe form a “capsule,” which helps the joint work right. When these muscles get swollen, it’s called capsulitis.

Even though it can also happen in the joints of the third and fourth toes, capsulitis usually affects the second toe. This inflammation is very painful, and if it isn’t handled, it can eventually weaken the muscles around the toe, which can lead to the toe coming loose. Capsulitis, which is also called dislocation syndrome, is a common disease that can happen to people of any age.


Most people think that capsulitis of the second toe is caused by improper foot motion, in which the ball of the foot under the toe joint takes on too much weight.

Some situations or traits can make it more likely for a person to feel too much pressure on the ball of the foot. Most of the time, these are serious bunion deformities, a second toe that is longer than the big toe, a physically unstable arch, and a tight leg muscle.

Read More: Calcaneal Apophysitis (Sever’s Disease)


Because capsulitis of the second toe is a problem that gets worse over time if it is not treated, it is important to notice and treat it as soon as possible. In the early stages, which is when it’s best to get help, signs may include:

  • Especially in the ball of the foot, pain. It can feel like there’s a pebble in the shoe or that a sock is bunched up.
  • The pain area, including the base of the toe, swells up.
  • Trouble putting on shoes
  • When you walk barefoot, it hurts.

In later stages, the muscles that hold the toe together get weaker, and the joint can no longer hold the toe steady. The unsteady toe moves toward the big toe and finally crosses over and rests on top of the big toe. This is called “crossover toe,” and it is the last step of a condition called “cap.”


Because the signs of capsulitis can be similar to those of a disease called Morton’s neuroma, which is handled differently than capsulitis, it is important to get a correct diagnosis.

The foot and ankle surgeon will look at the foot, press on it, and move it in different ways to make the symptoms come back. The doctor will also look for possible reasons and check the joint’s security. Most of the time, X-rays are ordered, but sometimes other imaging tests are needed.

Non-surgical Treatment

The best time to treat capsulitis of the second toe is in the early stages before the toe starts to move toward the big toe. When this happens, non-surgical methods can be used to strengthen the joint, ease the symptoms, and treat the condition’s root cause.

For early treatment of capsulitis, the foot and ankle doctor may choose one or more of the following:

  • Rest and ice. Keeping off the foot and using ice packs can help lessen the pain and stiffness. Use an ice pack on the area, but put a thin towel between the ice and the skin. Use ice for 20 minutes, then wait at least 40 minutes before icing again.
  • Oral medications. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like aspirin may help ease the pain and swelling.
  • Taping/splinting. The toe may need to be taped so that it stays in the right place. This helps ease the pain and keeps the toe from moving even more.
  • Stretching. People with tight leg muscles may be told to do stretching movements.
  • Shoe modifications. Supportive shoes with stiff soles are best because they help control movement and put less pressure on the ball of the foot.
  • Orthotic devices. Inserts made just for your shoes are often very helpful. Some of these are arch supports and metatarsal pads, which take the weight off the joint.

When is Surgery Needed?

Once the second toe moves toward the big toe, it can’t go back to its normal place without surgery. The foot and ankle surgeon will choose the best treatment or mix of techniques for each patient.

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