Triangles and Tears: Wrist Diagnosis

This title has a special double meaning today. For the first time in months I feel hope of climbing again. After 9 months of wrist injury and 5 months without climbing, I’ve finally got a diagnosis of exactly what is wrong. It’s a huge relief to know!

I’ve got a partial tear of my triangular fibrocartilage complex (TFCC). This explains why I’ve been having chronic wrist pain, and the clicky grinding feeling/reduced strength. It also explains why I haven’t been healing.

Table of Contents

1. Background info on TFCC and wrist sprains…..below

2. Why the right chiropractor is gold, not scrap metal…..scroll through

3. Hope and healing!…..scroll right on down


Background Information


The TFCC is a triangular structure of cartilage that cushions and supports all those little bones in your wrist, and stabilizes during grasping and forearm rotation. It sees a lot of action, as you can imagine.

For those fellow climbers with wrist injuries and those who may suspect TFCC damage, here are some common signs: (*others I specifically noticed)

  • chronic wrist pain
  • swelling
  • clicky wrist
  • pinching feeling in TFCC area while bending/flexing wrist
  • pain while bearing weight on wrist (hanging/push-ups)*
  • pain from handwriting, other minute repetitive tasks*

When I first injured my wrist, I took two weeks off and then returned carefully. Things seemed to be going okay with the help of some physio on the side. As I trained harder for provincials, the pain became more consistent/persistent and I began receiving some intense acupuncture/IMS/manipulation from my physiotherapist. I climbed using wrist tape as support at all times. At the end of January, something changed. The pain became worse. I began wearing tape even to write. Writing became too painful. I cut back to only typing. I stopped seeing physio because I was worried the treatment was too intense. Each visit lately had been only putting me through excruciating pain and leaving me worse off. I did not receive “pleasant” pain or release. Researching IMS and active release, it should not have been painful to that level. I could barely train at all leading up to nationals. Nationals did not go well. I stopped climbing.

The Right Chiropractor is Gold (not scrap metal)

I would like to take a moment to give a shout-out to my chiropractor. I know chiropractors have a pretty bad rep in this world. For not being “real” doctors, and for all that hooey about back cracking. However, I’ve been seeing mine for over a year now for my ankle, and I still remember how it felt when Laurie was the first one ever to make the pain I’d been suffering from everyday disappear. I walked out of that office a thousand times lighter. She’s not your conventional chiropractor — she’s a foot specialist who’s treated professional ballerinas and arthritis patients for over seven years. She founded her chiropractic and rehabilitation clinic herself, and holds herself and her staff to an extremely high standard of education. She knows human anatomy even better than “the back of her hand.”

Laurie touched my wrist once, prodding and digging into it in an admittedly painful way to see what was up. I’d talked with her about it before and, after she’d treated my ankle on that visit, she couldn’t let me walk out of there without taking a look at the wrist. Keep in mind I’d had months of other doctors, physios, X-rays and ultrasounds before and after this event. Laurie got 2 excruciating minutes with that wrist. And she told me it was possible that I had a tear in my triangular fibrocartilage, and ordered an MRI, the best way to diagnose one.

6 months later, a week ago, I had my MRI.

I have a tear in my triangular fibrocartilage.

Hope & Healing

I have two treatment options:

  1. Steroid injections + physiotherapy
  2. Surgery

My chiropractor recommends the second option, because the surgery is relatively noninvasive and has yielded very positive results in the past. The steroid injections may not work well for me because my wrist has already not healed over these past 5 rest months. Additionally, she suggests the surgery since I am young and still need to get a lot of use out of this wrist. The main concern against surgery is the rehab time, but since I’m already off from most exercises because of my wrist, that’s not a huge concern. If my sports medicine doctor gives the okay for the surgery, it shouldn’t be too long a wait until I see a plastic surgeon for the procedure. And, if all goes well, I should regain full functionality. That’s incredible!

It brings a bit of joy to each day now that I know that climbing may actually be back in my life pretty soon. It makes me feel a lot more confident now my doctors have something to work with. It’s been killing me to wonder if it’ll just never heal.

If somebody had told me I couldn’t climb for six months, I’d honestly have thought I’d be dead by now.

Climbing is my stress relief. My family, my friends, my home, my fitness, my health, and my joy. Is….?….was? It’s kind of confusing now…I can’t imagine myself existing without climbing. So, being confronted with the foreign concept of an actual physical barrier, I’ve been trying to grasp some positive essence of the person I could be without climbing. Not going to lie — nothing much has come to me at all. It’s radio static out there, and I do often consider how dangerous it is for my identity to be so dependent on a single activity. A high-impact one where I may easily be injured and never able to participate again.

It’s all about the confidence. I used to have it, and now it seems to have disappeared alongside my able-bodiedness. I’m a pretty bland person now. I can’t think of much to say, and I’ve become a lot more socially anxious and lonely because of it. When I stopped climbing, I stopped being interesting. Frankly, I often don’t interest myself.


Evidently there is a lot more crap that needs to heal than just my wrist. That’s why I’m also a little nervous to climb again. I don’t think it can ever be as interesting as it once was, because the fact is:

I survived.

I survived without climbing, and I’ve gotta damn well believe that some things exist out there that are just as magical and existence-building.

Existence-building (adj.) : an art or activity that allows one to express yourself, and in doing so, becomes you

In case you’re wondering what the big deal is about climbing, and what makes it so “interesting,” climbing was my drugs and my alcohol and and my staying out past bedtime and my secret ninja life, and my Narnia. Simply: my childhood. It was what made me different, and what makes me different now.

So, when I climb again, I’m also going to learn guitar. I’m going to learn how to skateboard, and rollerblade, and keep doing my bike interval training. I’m going to get into kayaking, and learn to swing dance. I’m going to buy myself a car, and start first year university, and go on the exchange programs I’ve always dreamed of.

And I’m going to have climbing, but I’m also going to have everything else. And maybe I’ll be interesting.

Follow me To All Depths of my quest for the HermitCrab lifestyle:



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