Even the slightest pain on your wrist can be nuisance preventing you from conducting your normal day to day tasks. Most of the time, a pain in the entire wrist area is caused by a minor tear in your TFCC (Triangular Fibrocartilage Complex) ligaments.
TFCC injuries are quite common, however, without adequate treatment; the pain can be unbearable. To solve this problem, rock climbers, professional athletes, and even musicians are turning towards a minimalistic wrist brace called the WristWidget.
About the company
The WristWidget is an invention of Wendy Medeiros (a Certified Hand Therapist who has been treating hands since 1993).
Before she retired in 2015, the idea of the WristWidget came to her after a patient refused surgery for an ulna sided wrist pain caused by a TFCC Injury. The patient had refused to undergo any surgery thus Wendy decided to sew the first Wrist Widget that would help the patient deal with the pain.
What originally began as a solution to help a single patient in need ended up as a fully fledged family business based in Hawaii. Since 2006 Wendy and her family have been making wrist widgets by outsourcing material from 5 countries in an effort to provide users with non-elastic support for wrists with TFCC injuries.
So far, over half a million WristWidgets have been distributed to users in more than 150 countries. Plus, through her heavy involvement in research, Wendy has also collected over 40,000 TFCC cases in order to better understand how to heal TFCC injuries without surgery.
What conditions does it treat?
The WristWidget is designed to treat Triangular Fibrocartilage Complex TFCC injuries. The TFCC is popularly known as wrist meniscus and comprises of a set of ligaments that connect bone to bone in support of the wrist during grip, rotation, and weight-bearing activities.
A tear on either of these ligaments is usually characterized by pain on the side of the wrist as the connected bones spread apart. This can easily get worse especially when you try to rotate your wrist or conduct some weight-bearing movements. Common symptoms of a TFCC tear include:
- A swelling wrist
- Loss of grip strength
- Pain at the base of the pinky side of the wrist
- A gradual increase in pain while bending the wrist from side to side
You might have a different combination of the above symptoms depending on the nature of your TFCC injury.
How does it work?
Hand movements are supported by two main bones called the Ulna and Radius. The work of the TFCC ligaments is to offer support to these two bones by connecting them together and keeping them from spreading apart. When you have a tear on your TFCC ligament; the WristWidget works by doing the work of the TFCC ligaments. It supports the torn ligaments thus keeping the connected bones (ulna and radius) from painfully spreading apart.
The WristWidget is easily adjustable depending on the size of your wrist. You can also adjust it to increase the tension if you plan to carry heavy weights with the injured wrist. The straps feature an open design that does not affect functional wrist option. It does this by leaving space for the Ulna head for easy wrist movements.
Does it work?
Yes, the WristWidget does a good job of taking over the TFCC to prevent the radius and the ulna from spreading. In fact, various users have reported that their TFCC injuries healed with the help of the WristWidget without surgery.
A study conducted by Susan J. Barlow from the University of Tennessee confirmed that non-surgical interventions such as the WristWidget increased weight-bearing tolerance to the level of normalcy in subjects with a tear on their TFCC ligaments.
In the study, a 45-year-old man who presented ulna-sided left-wrist pain after performing a yoga handstand was able to find relief after about 12 weeks of using the WristWidget. Through a series of weight-bearing tests, the study revealed an 84 percent increase in his weight bearing tolerance immediately after donning the WristWidget brace.
What is Weight Bearing Test?
The weight-bearing test is an easy way of determining whether your TFCC is damaged. The test measures how much weight you are able to tolerate through your wrist and hand. According to Wendy (the WristWidget inventor), the weight-bearing test is more reliable and affordable than an MRI scan. She recommends the test for “Every patient with a diagnosis of a TFCC tear” because the weight-bearing test is more specific especially for TFCC tears.
The test evaluates your weight tolerance by measuring your pressing ability with an analog scale. The analog scale is a must because it does not measure static weight like a digital scale. An analog scale allows you to easily see where your pressing abilities lie making it easy to determine the consistent weight your injured wrist can tolerate.
Since the human wrist has an average pressing ability of about 60 to 120 lbs, the weight bearing test allows you to easily contrast and compare the performance of your injured wrist against that of the normal wrist. Although you will notice some pain when pushing down the scale with the injured wrist, the test is not designed to hurt you. For this reason, it is recommended that you press slowly with the injured wrist and stop as soon as you feel discomfort.
How to perform the weight bearing test
To conduct the weight bearing test, you need an analog scale, the wrist widget and a sports tape. You will use your uninjured hand as a control
- Start by placing your uninjured hand in a relaxed position on top of the scale. With your longest finger pointing to 12:00, make sure your hand does not twist
- Next, while keeping your elbow straight, lean over your wrist moving your entire bodyweight through your wrist.
- You will see that your normal wrist has a tolerance of about 70lbs
- Now follow the same procedure with your injured wrist only this time, be gentler and go much slower.
- Make sure you press over the analog scale with a straight arm. Once you start to feel discomfort stop and note down the reading on the scale.
- Do not exceed the pain tolerance on your injured wrist.
- Now take two half inch wide of the sports tape and cut them at about 13 inches long.
- For the first round, wrap them both loosely around the wrist while leaving space for the ulna bone.
- For the second round, increase the tension on the wrap by pulling the tape tight while you wrap your wrist.
- Now go back to the weight bearing test to see whether the pain tolerance in your injured wrist has improved.
- Finally, do the same with the WristWidget and note the improvement on your injured wrist.
What are independent reviewers saying? Check YouTube and forums
For most users, the wrist widget made a huge difference to their TFCC pain tolerance. One user, in particular, was able to use the WristWidget on her child after months of battling pain from the injured wrist. As soon as she wore the WristWidget, the improvement in her tolerance was immediate.
According to another review by Dr. Alex McdDuffie, the WristWidget allowed him to complete all activities with an increased range of motion and increased pain tolerance. He recommends the WristWidget to anyone with a torn TFCC since it’s designed to squeeze the wrist without compression to the Ulna head thus allowing fast healing of the TFCC.
Additionally, another user managed to get relief from her TFCC injury after 2 years of searching. She was unable to write or type but when she wore the WristWidget, her pain tolerance increased. She notes that the WristWidget was helpful even though she eventually requires surgery for her TFCC injury.
Zac Holtzman, a guitar player in a band called Dengue Fever, injured his wrist while building a fence. He mentions that the pain was intense making guitar playing quite difficult. However, when he ordered the WristWidget, his painful wrist improved almost in an instant.
What makes it unique?
What makes the WristWidget unique (apart from giving external support to the Ulna and Radius bones) is that it allows for the independent adjustment of the different sections of the wrist.
It comes with non-elastic straps that do not stretch thus giving reliable support to the torn TFC ligaments. Plus, its open design does not compress the Ulna head thus giving time for adequate healing of the torn TFCC ligament. Keeping in mind that any compression to the ulna head will change your ability to bear weight, the WristWidget comes with a design that does not only relieve the pain but also enables normal functioning.
Users – golfers, athletes,
The WristWidget is designed to fit a wide range of users. From golfers like Austin Cook to impressive rock climber and even guitar players like Zac Holtzman, there is no shortage of users for the WristWidget. A drummer for the Blue Man Group mentioned that he could now be able to play over 3000 shows all thanks to the wrist widget.
The WristWidget is loved by firefighters, bow hunters, acro artists and various athletes who bear weights, or regularly rotate and flex their wrists. Not only does it perform well to relieve pain, but it is also capable of helping users avoid expensive surgery.
Although the Wrist widget offers a lot of flexibility that is easily adjustable to fit any wrist size, some users still complained that the WristWidget slipped down their arm. This is mostly due to the diverse anatomical variations that are common among human beings.
While the common gaps between the ulna and radius bone making up the girth of the arm is 8mm, some people only have a 3mm space to work with. In such cases, tightening the straps of the wrist widget to fit further can lead to the nerves going numb.
In an effort to solve the problem, Wendy has considered asking users for their X-rays in order to come up with custom sewn versions of the WristWidget.
Wendy has also suggested a couple of quick solutions that patients with the slipping WristWidget problem can apply.
First Solution: for this solution, you will need a non-adhesive drawer liner. Then trace the WristWidget on the liner and cut out the liner to fit the design of the wrist widget. Make sure the liner stays on the side of the wrist widget that is in contact with your skin. Then glue the liner in place. This method will prevent the wrist widget from slipping while allowing your skin to breath.
Second solution: Another solution to prevent the WristWidget from slipping is to use a Coban under the WristWidget. Since Coban is a non-adhesive wrap, it will stick to itself and not on your skin thus preventing the WristWidget from slipping. Be sure not to stretch it.
How do you treat a wrist injury?
Wrist injuries are common among athletes who stand a chance of stretching the wrist and hand bones a little too far during sporting activities. Apart from the weight-bearing test we talked about earlier, other recommended methods for diagnosis include an X-Ray, an MRI scan or an Arthroscopy. Fortunately, most minor and moderate wrist injuries end up healing on their own. Some of the solutions that can quicken the healing process include rest, using a bandage to support the torn ligaments, doing stretching exercises or using a solution such as the WristWidget.
What is a wrist widget?
This is a low profile, minimal wrist brace that is designed to treat Ulnar-sided wrist pain, TFCC injuries and other discomforts caused by rotating the wrist or bearing weights. It is made to adjust and fit comfortably on most wrist sizes and it is made of non-elastic material. Its open loop and hook design allow for zero interference on normal hand and wrist motions since it does not press the ulna head.
Does the WristWidget prevent carpal tunnel
Healthline.com describes carpal tunnel syndrome as a “compression of the median nerve as it passes into the hand.” In most cases, the condition is characterized by weakness, numbness and a tingling sensation on the side of the hand near the thumb. Since one of the causes of carpal tunnel is a trauma to the wrist, a WristWidget can be used to treat it. The WristWidget is designed to support the bones of the hand thus preventing further fractures and trauma to the wrist.
Are WristWidgets available in different sizes?
The WristWidget comes in a flexible one size fits most design. Its straps are easy to adjust in order to fit various wrist sizes including those with wrists as small as 5.25inches. For users who still find problems with the size of their wrist, the company offers additional solutions to make the WristWidget fit.
What is a TFCC tear?
Your forearm is made up of two main bones – radius and ulna. The TFCC is a set of ligaments, tendons, and cartilage that support and connect the radius and ulna bone together while stabilizing forearm and wrist movements. A tear in this region of your arm is a TFCC tear.
How do I know if I have a TFCC tear?
Even though a common symptom of TFCC tear is pain throughout your wrist, a more specific symptom would be pain along the outer part or pinky side of the wrist. Other symptoms include:
- Feeling pain while conducting weight-bearing activities
- Increasing pain while doing gripping and rotating movements
- A popping or clicking sound while moving your wrist (some patients might not experience this symptom)
Can a TFCC tear heal without surgery?
Yes, most of the time, a TFCC tear will heal itself without surgery. Other external solutions such as wearing a cast can immobilize the wrist area, therefore, giving time for the ligaments to heal faster. However, while some areas of the TFCC have an excellent blood supply that supports fast recovery others have a poor supply of blood and the healing, therefore, might take time even when the wrist is immobilized.
How long does it take for a TFCC tear to heal?
When there is a minor TFCC tear, you can expect the injured wrist to heal in about 4 to 6 weeks. In cases where surgery is required, the injured wrist might take several months before full recovery.
Who is likely to get a TFCC tear?
TFCC injuries can happen to anyone. However, it is common among athletes who use racquets, clubs, and bats since a lot of vigorous wrist movements are involved in those types of sports. Gymnastics and climbers also tend to put a lot of pressure on their wrists as well.
When the TFCC tear is severe, surgery is usually the best solution. However, for most minor cases, a solution such as the WristWidget offers a viable solution that is also affordable. You can conduct the weight bearing test to self diagnose and to determine your level of tolerance as well. If user reviews are anything to go by, the WristWidget does a great job of helping a patient with torn ligaments get quick recovery.