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Signs and Symptoms of Triangular Fibrocartilage Complex (TFCC) Tears Atlanta, GA
man touches the wrist and thumb

The triangular fibrocartilage complex (TFCC) is a crucial structure in the wrist that provides stability and support to the joint. A TFCC tear is a common injury that can cause significant discomfort and functional limitations. Recognizing the signs and symptoms of TFCC tears is vital for timely diagnosis and appropriate management.

Causes and Symptoms of TFCC Tears

TFCC tears, or triangular fibrocartilage complex tears, can occur due to various factors or traumatic incidents that affect the wrist joint. Some of the common causes include repetitive stress, acute trauma, degenerative factors and sports injuries. Symptoms of TFCC tears can include:

  • Pain: Persistent pain on the pinky side of the wrist, particularly during gripping, twisting motions, or weight-bearing activities, is a primary symptom of a TFCC tear. The pain may be dull, sharp, or throbbing in nature.
  • Swelling: Inflammation and swelling around the wrist joint, particularly on the ulnar (pinky) side, may be present. Swelling might contribute to a limited range of motion and wrist stiffness.
  • Clicking or Popping Sensation: Patients might experience clicking, popping, or a catching sensation in the wrist joint, especially during movement. This can occur due to the instability caused by the torn TFCC.
  • Weakness and Instability: A TFCC tear can lead to weakness in the wrist and a feeling of instability, making it challenging to perform certain activities that involve bearing weight on the hand or rotating the wrist.
  • Decreased Grip Strength: Patients may notice a decline in their ability to grip objects firmly due to pain and weakness in the wrist.

TFCC tears can vary in severity, ranging from mild strains or partial tears to complete ruptures of the fibrocartilage complex. Prompt evaluation and appropriate treatment by a healthcare professional are essential if symptoms suggestive of a TFCC tear arise to prevent further damage and facilitate timely intervention.

Treatment for TFCC Tears

Initially, non-surgical approaches are often attempted to manage TFCC tears. These include rest, immobilization with a splint or brace, icing the affected area and anti-inflammatory medications to alleviate pain and reduce swelling. However, if conservative treatment is not effective, other options may be considered.

  • Physical Therapy: Rehabilitation exercises focusing on strengthening the wrist, improving flexibility, and enhancing joint stability are crucial components of TFCC tear management. Physical therapy helps in restoring functionality and preventing further injury.
  • Corticosteroid Injections: In some cases, corticosteroid injections may be administered to reduce inflammation and alleviate pain around the TFCC. These injections can provide temporary relief but are not a long-term solution.
  • Wrist Arthroscopy: When conservative measures fail to provide relief or in cases of severe TFCC tears, surgical intervention may be necessary. Wrist arthroscopy is a minimally invasive surgical procedure that allows the surgeon to visualize and treat the TFCC tear using small incisions and specialized instruments. Arthroscopy enables precise diagnosis and repair of the damaged tissue, promoting quicker recovery and reduced postoperative discomfort compared to traditional open surgery.

During wrist arthroscopy for TFCC tears, the surgeon may debride or trim the torn tissue, repair the damaged ligaments, or perform other necessary procedures to restore stability and function to the wrist joint. Postoperative rehabilitation with physical therapy is essential to regain strength, mobility, and functionality of the wrist after surgery.

Seeking prompt medical attention and a proper diagnosis from an orthopedic specialist is crucial if one suspects a TFCC tear. Early intervention and appropriate treatment, whether conservative or surgical, can significantly improve outcomes and help individuals regain optimal wrist function and quality of life. If you have signs or symptoms of a TFCC tear, contact our team at Ortho Sport & Spine Physicians to schedule an exam for proper diagnosis and treatment options.

Posted on behalf of Ortho Sport & Spine Physicians

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