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Metatarsophalangeal Joint Capsulitis (MTPJ Capsulitis)

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What is Metatarsophalangeal Joint Capsulitis (MTPJ Capsulitis)?

The metatarsophalangeal joints connect the metatarsals (long bones of the forefoot) to the toes. These joints are surrounded by a synovial capsule.

These joints take a lot of stress during certain activities such as running, walking or crouching.

These stresses can increase with thin soled or worn out footwear, walking on hard surfaces, higher body weight, or if you have certain medical conditions such as Rheumatoid Arthritis.

When the joints are exposed to stress, the capsules can become inflamed, swollen and painful. Many people report to us that it feels like they are walking on a lump or a stone and people describe a range of symptoms from sharp pains to dull aching and throbbing in the evenings. A callus or corn can also form on the skin under the joints, but joint capsule pain is usually felt deeper in the foot and the pain continues despite corn or callus treatment.

How can I help myself?

Management of this problem requires reducing stress through the joints to try to reduce chronic inflammation.

In the short term, resting, activity modification and wearing thicker soled and more “cushioning” footwear may help.

ICE and anti-inflammatory medication may also be useful to help with pain and swelling in the short term, but it is important to get an assessment of the area.

Lots of different conditions can cause pain in this area of the body and be associated with capsulitis, the following links provide information on some of these:


lesser toe deformity

Stress Fracture

Plantar Plate Injury


When to see a Podiatrist?

See a Podiatrist if you are having pain in these small and vulnerable joints.

A podiatrist will be able to offer specific footwear advice and check your foot and ankle mechanics, offering exercises if appropriate, strapping techniques to stabilise the toes and reduce joint movement and loading, and foot orthoses or insoles if appropriate to alter stress and loading, amongst other treatment options.

Sometimes imaging is needed to further assess the problem and surgery can also be indicated at times. (See the lesser toe deformity page too as these conditions often accompany joint Capsulitis).

If you book an appointment, it is wise to take the footwear you wear on a day to day basis.

Metatarsophalangeal Joint Capsulitis