What is a TFCC Tear?
While the human body is made up of millions of different components, it is often easy to overlook the importance of those lesser known parts. The Triangular Fibrocartilage Complex or TFCC is the structure that supports your wrist bones on the pinky side of your hand. This is what keeps your forearms stable and can often prove to be an inconvenience if you tear this cartilage.
How to Identify a TFCC Tear
During the daily activities of our lives, we are exposed to many hazards that can result in injury. All it takes is a simple fall on an outstretched arm to injure yourself. Knowing how to identify if you have a torn TFCC should be left up to the medical professionals, but it is not unwise to learn the symptoms for yourself.
Dr. Jeffrey E. Budoff MD a Hand Surgeon in Houston lists a few of the main symptoms to look for (http://www.rearmyourselftexas.com/). The key is to pay attention to your wrist. If you notice any swelling or painful clicking, this could indicate a problem with your TFCC. Another indication could be the loss of strength in your grip.
The most common types of tears are traumatic and chronic. The first one is a swift movement that causes the injury, while the latter occurs over time from age, or perhaps an inflammatory disorder. There is no discrimination when it comes to tearing your TFCC; it can happen to anyone. Naturally, those who are active and participate in sports have a higher risk.
If you feel that you fit the symptoms, the next step would be a visit to your doctor. A TFCC tear can be seen either through an MRI. The MRI will be able to give you the most accurate diagnosis since the cartilage and tissues will be visible for examination.
How to Treat a TFCC Tear
Sports Injury Clinic provides helpful information on what to know once you have injured your TFCC (http://www.sportsinjuryclinic.net/sport-injuries/wrist-pain/tfcc-tear). Of all the ligaments located in your wrist, the TFCC is one of the most important because of the role that they play. Depending on the severity of the injury, surgery might be necessary to fully repair the tear. In most cases, a “keyhole” surgery is performed. This is done by first inserting a small camera into the back of the wrist to better view the injury. From there, the surgeon is able to perform a minimally invasive surgery.
In a worst-case scenario, if the tear is very severe, a more complex surgery will need to take place. This can consist of Using a piece of tendon from a different part of your body to compensate for the piece that is torn. This surgery is done in a fully open approach rather than through a “keyhole.”
As expected, you are going to want to use that arm as little as possible. Your doctor will likely put you in a splint for up to 4 weeks (or cast, if necessary). For any inflammation, ibuprofen is usually prescribed. Ice may also be used to assist with the swelling. If your mobility is very severely limited, a shot of steroids may help to alleviate the strain. In most cases, full mobility returns and the patient is able to use their arm normally.
How To Recover from a TFCC Tear
Fast Track Physical Therapy knows that accidents happen. One of the most important aspects of injuring your TFCC is the process of building it back up to full strength again (http://www.fasttrackpt.com/Injuries-Conditions/Wrist/Wrist-Issues/Triangular-Fibrocartilage-Complex-TFCC-Injuries/a~6405/article.html). Once your surgeon gives you the green light, you will be able to start physical therapy, an essential step to recovering.
During this time, it is encouraged that you participate in your normal fitness routine, sans the activities that put pressure on your wrist. Running, stationary biking, and stair stepping are some examples. When your wrist is freed of any casts or splints, the rest of the therapy will take place. Usually, the first step is to regain dexterity and flexibility. Since it’s been immobile for so long, your wrist is going to need some basic strengthening exercises.
It is fortunate that healing from a torn TFCC is normally a fairly quick process. By following the given plan by your physical therapist, your wrist will relearn movements and become strong again. It is important to take things slowly and not rush into exercises that are too advanced. Most people find that they are able to feel completely normal again once their course of therapy is completed. The only noticeable side effects being stiffness and sensitivity. In the rare cases that the TFCC does not heal properly, another surgery or fusion could be necessary.
Dealing with an injury is never pleasant, but having the knowledge on how to heal is going to make the process a lot easier. An important part of keeping your TFCC protected after a tear is to treat your arm with caution. If you know that something is likely to put a large amount of pressure on your wrist, skip out on the activity to preserve your ligaments.