A triangular fibrocartilage complex tear is a type of injury that affects the ligaments in the middle and outer side of your wrist. Your TFCC ligaments help to keep your wrist joint stable, so trauma or damage to these supportive ligaments can lead to wrist joint instability, pain and a host of other uncomfortable symptoms. In today’s blog, we take a closer look at some of the common ways that these wrist ligaments can be injured, and how physical therapy can help you recover following a TFCC tear.
Causes And Symptoms Of Triangular Fibrocartilage Complex Tear
Triangular fibrocartilage complex tears can develop for a variety of reasons. Natural aging can lead to gradual wear and tear on the ligaments, but oftentimes the underlying cause is acute or repetitive trauma. If you slip and try to brace yourself with your hands, or you’re constantly stressing the ligaments while playing Pickleball or golf, you may develop a TFCC tear. Most patients develop TFCC tears in their dominant hand, especially if their tear is the result of a repetitive trauma. Construction workers who use power tools or manual laborers who strain one arm more than the other are at heightened risk for a TFCC tear.
Symptoms of a TFCC tear include:
- Pain when using or putting pressure on the wrist/hand
- Wrist swelling
- Wrist stiffness
- Decreased grip strength
- Clicking or popping sound when using the wrist
- Difficulty or inability to lift or twist objects without pain
Diagnosing And Treating TFCC Tears
If you are dealing with any of the above symptoms, especially if you regularly work with your hands or have recently experienced trauma to the wrist, consider connecting with a medical professional. You could set up an appointment with your primary care physician, but because TFCC tears are oftentimes treated with physical therapy and you don’t need a referral to seek out PT services, you could just head straight to the team at OrthoRehab Specialists. We’ll begin by asking about your symptoms, injury onset and what type of actions lead to symptom intensity or relief.
From there, we’ll conduct a physical examination and ask you to perform some simple movements that may help us identify damage to the TFCC complex. An MRI or X-ray can help to confirm the injury or rule out issues like a wrist fracture.
If you are diagnosed with a triangular fibrocartilage complex tear, your physical therapist will walk you through the standard treatment protocol, but they’ll also tweak it based on your individual needs. Oftentimes they’ll talk with you about protecting the area in the short-term, which may involve techniques like compression wraps, bracing, icing and activity avoidance for a short period of time.
During your physical therapy sessions, your wrist therapist will gradually work to improve wrist function through a combination of exercises that will help to strengthen the ligaments, expand their comfortable range of motion and build their endurance so that you can continue to use the area without pain. We’ll also develop an activity-specific therapy routine so that your wrist and TFCC complex can handle stress during the exact actions you perform most. Many patients experience fantastic results and can avoid the need for surgery by pursuing physical therapy over the course of a few weeks.
Don’t continue to be bothered by wrist pain. Instead, connect with a PT team that can help strengthen your wrist ligaments and ensure they can provide adequate support to the joint. For more information, or for help with a different physical issue, reach out to the team at OrthoRehab Specialists today at (612) 339-2041.