The triangular fibrocartilage complex (TFCC) connects the bones in your forearm with bones in your wrist. The structure — made up of ligaments, tendons and cartilage — helps support and stabilize your wrist. You can tear your TFCC if you fall on, twist or fracture your wrist. TFCC tears can also result from tissue wearing down as you age.
The triangular fibrocartilage complex (TFCC) helps stabilize your wrist. Your TFCC consists of ligaments and cartilage. It attaches your forearm bones (ulna and radius) to each other and to the small bones of your wrist. Your TFCC helps stabilize, support and cushion your wrist.
You can rotate your wrist and grip objects tightly thanks to your TFCC. When you tear your TFCC, your wrist joint may feel weaker and less stable.
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This small but complex structure can tear easily as a result of a sudden impact or twisting injury. TFCC tears also happen more often in older adults, as the tissues that make up your TFCC break down and become thinner with age. This degeneration leaves your TFCC more vulnerable to tears.
There are two main causes of TFCC tears:
In many cases, chronic or degenerative TFCC tears don’t cause pain or other symptoms. If you tear your TFCC as the result of an acute injury, you may have symptoms such as:
A minor TFCC tear may heal on its own. But leaving a severe TFCC tear untreated can lead to a weak or unstable wrist.
Your healthcare provider will ask about your medical history and ask how and when your wrist pain started. They'll also perform a physical exam. They'll press on different areas of your wrist to assess your range of motion and strength.
Your provider may also recommend imaging tests — such as X-rays or MRI — to look for fractures or tears.
Minor TFCC tears often heal without treatment. If you don’t have pain or weakness in your wrist, your provider may recommend letting the tear heal on its own.
Some TFCC tears cause symptoms and interfere with your ability to perform daily activities. In these cases, your provider may recommend treatment. Options include:
You can’t always prevent an accident that tears your TFCC. But you can take steps to lessen your risk of a TFCC tear:
Most minor TFCC tears can heal on their own with rest and therapy. Surgery can fix more severe tears. Most people with TFCC tears regain full function within 12 weeks of surgery.
You should call your healthcare provider if you experience:
You may want to ask your healthcare provider:
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Triangular fibrocartilage complex (TFCC) tears can cause pain and instability in your wrist. Simple treatments, such as rest and physical therapy, are often enough to heal a TFCC tear. Surgery may be necessary to repair more severe tears. With the right treatment, most people with TFCC tears regain full function within a few months.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 10/26/2021.
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