Triangular Fibrocartilage Tears

Triangular Fibrocartilage Tears

The triangular fibrocartilage complex (TFCC) is a term used to describe the ligamentous and cartilaginous structures located on the small finger side of the wrist. It is composed of an articular disc and multiple ligaments that provide attachment to bone. This complex is a major stabilizer of the wrist joint and helps keep the forearm stable when you go to grasp something or when the TFCCforearm rotates.


It is normally injured through excessive force, in either extension or ulnar deviation (wrist extends too far back or towards the little finger too much). A fall onto an outstretched hand is one mechanism which can cause a tear in the triangular fibrocartilage (TFC).  Athletes involved in racquet sports such as badminton or tennis, as well as those who bear weight through the wrists such as in gymnastics, can also be at risk.

This injury can cause pain on the little finger side of the wrist. Some people may experience clicking or clunking sensations and they find rotation movements provocative. The ability to use the hand for functional tasks will therefore be impaired. 


A diagnosis of a TFC tear will be done through a thorough history and clinical examination. An x-Ray or MRI scan may be needed to confirm the preliminary diagnosis. Most often, a period of rest is essential and use of a brace can help complement this period to allow the ligament to heal and the soft tissues to settle.  Immobilization can vary between 4 and 6 weeks. A steroid injection may also help complement the rehabilitation process. Depending on the degree of injury, rest and bracing can be sufficient. However, if conservative management fails, then surgery may be required to maintain stability at the distal radioulnar joint.

If you have any wrist pain, it is important to have it fully assessed by a Charted Physiotherapist. This will ensure appropriate management is undertaken. It will also help to avoid any persistent pain issues down the line. If you require any further information, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.


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Chartered Physiotherapist Aiveen Lavery

Aiveen Lavery MISCP

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