Triangular Fibrocartilage Complex (TFCC) Injury

The triangular fibrocartilage complex (TFCC) is a structure located in the wrist that provides stability and support to the joint. It is a cartilage and ligamentous structure that is located on the ulnar side of the wrist, opposite to the thumb.

The TFCC is comprised of several components, including the triangular fibrocartilage disc, the dorsal and volar radioulnar ligaments, the ulnocarpal ligament, the meniscus homologue, and the extensor carpi ulnaris sheath. Together, these structures help to connect the ulna bone to the carpal bones and the radius bone, providing stability and allowing for smooth movement of the wrist joint.

Causes of Triangular Fibrocartilage Complex (TFCC) Injury

There are several causes of a triangular fibrocartilage complex (TFCC) injury, including:

Trauma: A sudden impact or fall on an outstretched hand can cause a TFCC injury. This is common in sports, such as skiing or gymnastics, or in accidents like a car crash.

Repetitive strain: Repetitive motions such as twisting or gripping can cause a TFCC injury over time. This is common in occupations that require repetitive hand motions, such as carpentry, or in sports such as tennis or golf.

Aging: As we age, the cartilage in the wrist can degenerate, making it more susceptible to injury.

Anatomical abnormalities: Certain anatomical variations, such as a longer ulna bone or a shallow wrist joint, can put increased stress on the TFCC and make it more prone to injury.

Degenerative diseases: Certain medical conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis or gout can also increase the risk of TFCC injury.

Signs and Symptoms of Triangular Fibrocartilage Complex (TFCC) Injury

The signs and symptoms of a triangular fibrocartilage complex (TFCC) injury can vary depending on the severity of the injury, but common ones include:

  • Pain on the ulnar side of the wrist: This is the side of the wrist opposite the thumb.
  • Swelling: The wrist may appear swollen or feel tender to the touch.
  • Weakness: You may experience a weak grip or difficulty lifting objects.
  • Stiffness: The wrist may feel stiff or limited in movement.
  • Clicking or popping: You may hear a clicking or popping sound when moving the wrist.
  • Loss of range of motion: The wrist may not move through its full range of motion.
  • Tenderness: The area may be tender to the touch.
  • Feeling of instability: The wrist may feel unstable or like it’s going to give way.

It’s important to see a doctor if you experience any of these symptoms, as early diagnosis and treatment can help prevent further damage and improve outcomes.

Treatment for Triangular Fibrocartilage Complex (TFCC) Injury

Physiotherapy can be an effective treatment for a triangular fibrocartilage complex (TFCC) injury. The goals of physiotherapy are to reduce pain and swelling, improve wrist range of motion and strength, and restore normal function. Some physiotherapy treatments that may be recommended for TFCC injuries include:

Rest and immobilization: In the early stages of a TFCC injury, it may be necessary to rest the wrist and immobilize it with a splint or brace to allow for healing.

Ice and heat therapy: Ice can help reduce swelling and pain, while heat can promote blood flow and aid in healing.

Manual therapy: Hands-on techniques, such as massage, mobilization, and stretching, can help improve wrist range of motion and reduce pain.

Strengthening exercises: Specific exercises can help strengthen the muscles in the wrist and forearm, which can help improve wrist stability and prevent future injuries.

Functional training: Once the wrist has healed, functional training exercises can help restore normal wrist function, such as gripping and lifting objects.

Education: A physiotherapist can provide education on proper body mechanics, wrist posture, and ergonomics to prevent future injuries.

It’s important to follow the guidance of a physiotherapist and to adhere to the prescribed exercises and treatment plan in order to achieve the best possible outcome.

If you have any questions or would like to speak to a therapist about triangular fibrocartilage complex (TFCC) injury please call us at 03 9836 1126.

 

Reference:

Mistelbauer, G., Kastner, N., & Sabeti-Aschraf, M. (2019). Physiotherapy for triangular fibrocartilage complex injuries: A systematic review. Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation

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