You slip on an icy driveway and catch yourself with your hands on your way to the ground. Or maybe you suffer from arthritis. Out of the blue notice a sharp pain and swelling in your wrist. Both could be the result of a TFCC tear.

A TFCC tear is a painful condition that can occur as a result of a variety of types of injuries or conditions. At our St George hand and wrist clinic, we frequently treat tears in the TFCC. 

If you think that you’ve suffered from a tear to your TFCC, we can help. Keep reading to learn what a TFCC tear is, the symptoms, and whether or not you’ll need surgery to fix your tear.

What is a TFCC Tear?

TFCC, or triangular fibrocartilage complex, is the cartilage, ligaments, and tendons that connect your hand and forearm bones, forming your wrist. These flexible parts allow your wrist to move, while also bracing your forearm so that you can grip things in your hands or rotate your arms.

When your TFCC is uninjured and functioning properly, it should be pain-free. If pain occurs and you notice that you now seem to have a limited range of motion in your wrist, it could be the result of tear in your TFCC.

There are two different types of TFCC tears that you could suffer. This includes Type 1 tears or Type 2 tears. A Type 1 TFCC tear is one that’s caused by an injury. This could include falling and landing on your hand. A Type 2 TFCC tear occurs when the TFCC cartilage breaks down. This usually occurs as a result of aging, though it can also be caused by conditions like rheumatoid arthritis or gout.

Signs You May Have Suffered a Tear

There are a variety of symptoms that can occur as a result of a TFCC tear. The most common symptom, as well as the first that most people will notice, is pain. You’ll likely notice pain on the outside of your wrist. It may feel as though that pain is radiating throughout your wrist. Sometimes this pain only occurs when you move your wrist. Other times, it occurs when you apply pressure to your wrist. However, some people experience constant pain as a result of a TFCC tear.

Another common symptom that you’ll notice is that you’ve lost some of your range of motion. Because the cartilage that helps your wrist turn and bend is torn, you may no longer be able to fully move or rotate your wrist. Your wrist may not feel stable when you try to lift something or lean against it. Or, it may suddenly feel weak or too stiff to move.

A TFCC tear usually causes swelling around the wrist, as well as tenderness in the affected area. You might also notice that your wrist seems to pop or click when you move it.

Diagnosing a Tear in Your TFCC

There are many different types of injuries and conditions that can cause wrist pain or reduced range of motion. Because of this, it can sometimes be difficult to distinguish whether your pain is the result of a TFCC tear or a different kind of injury.

For instance, sprains and fractures also cause pain, swelling, and reduced range of motion, similar to a TFCC tear. 

If you’re suffering from wrist pain, it’s best to visit a doctor right away. They will likely perform a physical examination and ask questions about how you injured your wrist and your medical history. They may also require an X-ray and/or an MRI to diagnose a TFCC tear. 

Our St George hand and wrist surgery experts can help you get to the root of your wrist pain. Whether you’ve already been diagnosed or are suffering from pain and aren’t sure of the cause, we can help

What Causes a Tear?

As we’ve mentioned, there are two different types of TFCC tears. Because Type 1 TFCC tears are caused by injuries, anyone can sustain one, regardless of their age. Falling and catching yourself on your wrist can cause a tear. Certain sports that require a lot of hand and wrist motion, such as tennis, can also increase an individual’s chances of suffering a wrist injury like a TFCC tear. 

Our bodies, and particularly our joints, see a lot of wear and tear as we age. Because of this, older individuals may be more prone to suffering from a Type 1 TFCC tear. Type 2 TFCC tears are primarily caused by age. Certain conditions, which are also often associated with age, such as arthritis, can increase a person’s risk of suffering a TFCC tear. In one study of TFCC tears, individuals over the age of 70 showed a 49 percent higher prevalence in developing tears, compared to a 27 percent prevalence in individuals over the age of 30.

Does a TFCC Tear Require Surgery?

Does a TFCC tear require surgery? It depends on the type of tear, the extent of the damage, and how it was caused. 

Some TFCC tears can be healed without the use of surgery. Our St George hand and wrist surgeons often treat TFCC tears with splints and immobilization, allowing the tears to heal on their own without surgery. It can take anywhere from several weeks to several months for a TFCC tear to heal, and you may need physical therapy to regain full motion in your wrist. It’s very important to avoid using your affected wrist while it heals. Otherwise, you may slow the healing process or even cause the tear to worsen. Pain medications can be used to help with the pain and to bring down the swelling in your wrist.

If a TFCC tear is severe or if it isn’t healing on its own, surgery may be necessary. Luckily, this procedure is usually minimally invasive. Following surgery, you may need physical rehabilitation to regain full range of motion in your wrist. And you may still face several weeks or months of recovery time as your wrist fully heals.

Repair Your TFCC Tear With the St. George Hand and Wrist Surgery Experts

A TFCC tear can make it difficult to do the things you love, and leave you with a sharp, constant pain in your wrist. Depending on the severity of your tear, your range of motion may suffer as well, which can make it difficult to get through your daily routine.

The experts at our St George hand and wrist surgery clinic can help you get to the root of your pain. We’ll assess your injury and develop a treatment plan to get you back to pain-free as quickly as possible.
Whether you’ve already been diagnosed or recently began suffering from hand or wrist pain, schedule an appointment today to learn more about how we can help.