What is the TFCC?
The triangular fibrocartilage complex, or TFCC, is a ligamentous structure on the pinky-side (or ulnar-side) of the wrist. Similar to the meniscus in the knee, the TFCC provides cushioning between the wrist bones and your ulna (forearm bone). The TFCC is often called the “shock-absorber” of the wrist, so you can imagine how one might sustain a TFCC tear.
How Do You Get a TFCC Tear?
The TFCC tear can occur from a fall or any other impact to your wrist. Many people injure their TFCC and are not immediately aware of it. We typically see TFCC tears related to high impact activities such as tennis and weight lifting. A TFCC tear can also occur overtime as a degenerative-type injury. TFCC injuries can cause mild to severe pain depending on the severity of the tear.
Hand Therapy Treatment for TFCC Tear
TFCC injuries can be very frustrating, as the pain and swelling can fluctuate. Rest, ice, and compression are paramount. Typically, we recommend icing throughout the day in addition to using some form of compression sleeve 24/7. Your therapist may also recommend that you wear a wrist brace or strap. Resting from strenuous activities will be necessary until the pain subsides. Once the pain has diminished, your therapist will help you slowly progress through range of motion and strengthening. Do not get discouraged! TFCC injuries take time to heal and can fluctuate. Icing and compression will likely help you most during recovery.
Do I Need Surgery for a TFCC Tear?
Depending on the location of the tear in your TFCC, your physician may recommend surgery. One area of the TFCC lacks a good blood supply and physicians typically do not repair it. If this is the case, they usually recommend hand therapy to help you with pain management and strengthening. Your physician may recommend a debridement surgery should therapy prove unsuccessful. They typically arthroscopically debride, or clean out, the area to trim any loose pieces or fraying of the ligaments.
If you do have surgery to have the TFCC repaired, you will likely have a hard cast or splint for a certain number of weeks. Then you will be referred to hand therapy once the physician feels you are ready. We always recommend seeking a second opinion before having surgery–read why here: Get a Second Opinion.
Did you injure your wrist? Were you recently diagnosed with a TFCC injury? If so, you could be a candidate for hand therapy services at LB Hand Therapy in Maryland. Visit our Where to Begin page to become a patient. Considering wrist surgery? Read this before deciding: Should I Have Hand Surgery?