What Is A TFCC Wrist Injury?

(Triangular Fibrocartilage Complex Injury)

A TFCC tear (also known as Triangular Fibrocartilage Complex Injury) is an injury to the soft tissues in the wrist known as the triangular fibrocartilage complex. 

These soft tissues help support and cushion the bones in the wrist (carpal bones) and stabilize the forearm. 

The wrist is a complex assembly of muscles, connective tissues, bones, and cartilage that enables the movement of the wrist, hand, and fingers.

The TFCC (triangular fibrocartilage complex) is a disc made of cartilage and ligaments on the ulnar side of the wrist (area near the pinky finger).

nurse checking man's wrist

The TFCC connects the bones in the hand to the wrist. When the TFCC is injured or torn, this affects the ability of the wrist to bear weight. A TFCC wrist injury can range from mild to severe and can even disable the wrist. 

If you have had a recent wrist injury and would like an accurate diagnosis, schedule a consultation with our hand, wrist & elbow experts at OrthoNeuro. Our doctors offer accurate diagnoses and treatment plans that are tailored to you.

Call or schedule an appointment online now! 

What Causes a TFCC Tear?

A TFCC tear or injury is usually caused by participating in high-impact sports, doing heavy-duty labor with your hands, or falling on an outstretched hand or arm.

Athletes involved in sports that place a high demand on their hands, such as tennis, baseball, football, and gymnastics, are often most at risk for a TFCC injury. 

There are two different types of TFCC tears: 

  1. Traumatic TFCC Tears: This usually results from falling on an outstretched hand or suffering a blow to the wrist.
  2. Degenerative TFCC Tears: This usually occurs over time as the cartilage in the wrist wears down. Repetitive motions in the wrist usually cause it.

What are the Symptoms of a TFCC Tear?

Some common symptoms of a TFCC tear include: 

  • Swelling at the wrist 
  • Tenderness to the touch of the wrist 
  • A clicking sound in the wrist (crepitus) 
  • Pain at the base of the wrist on the side of the pinky finger that gets worse with movement or when bearing weight 
  • A loss of grip strength 
  • Difficulty rotating the forearm 
  • Difficulty performing simple activities such as opening a doorknob or putting a key in the door 

How is a TFCC Tear Diagnosed?

Early diagnosis of a triangular fibrocartilage complex (TFCC) tear is critical to prevent additional hand, wrist, and forearm injuries. 

To accurately diagnose a TFCC tear, your healthcare provider will ask you how the injury came about. Your doctor will then determine the severity of your injury, categorizing it as a traumatic injury or a degenerative injury. 

Other conditions may lead to ulnar-sided wrist pain that a doctor will have to differentiate from a TFCC tear, such as ulnar styloid impingement syndrome, ulnar carpal impingement, and flexor muscle tendonitis.

Your doctor may also conduct joint stability tests such as a hyper supination test and an ulnar deviation test.

Your doctor performs a hyper supination test by rotating your arm in a palm-up position. An ulnar deviation test is performed by your healthcare provider by moving your hand away from your thumb (wrist extension). 

In addition to performing a physical exam, your doctor may also order different imaging tests such as an x-ray or an MRI to come to an accurate diagnosis and rule out any other conditions. 

What Are the Treatment Options for a TFCC Tear?

Triangular fibrocartilage complex (TFCC) tears that are mild to moderate in severity can usually be treated non-surgically. Some of the treatment methods that are used for TFCC tears include: 

  • Resting the wrist
  • Taking anti-inflammatory medication
  • Corticosteroid injections
  • Wearing a splint or cast to immobilize the wrist for 4 to 6 weeks
  • Physical therapy
nurse checking man's wrist

In some cases, severe TFCC injuries may require surgery. Surgery is often required in the case of a ligament rupturing in the hand. After surgery and recovery, your doctor might prescribe physical therapy for several weeks to restore flexibility and mobility to the wrist. 

Conclusion

Our board-certified hand, wrist & elbow specialists at OrthoNeuro are skilled in treating ulnar-sided wrist pain. 

We have helped many patients recover from TFCC tears and other various injuries to the wrist and have enabled athletes and non-athletes alike to begin the healing process as soon as possible. 

If you have had a recent wrist injury and would like to know if you have a TFCC tear, make an appointment for a physical examination with an OrthoNeuro specialist today! We have multiple locations in Central Ohio.

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