Meniscus Tear Symptoms: Loss of Motion

Of all the meniscus tear symptoms, loss of motion in the knee is one that can be very frustrating. After all, it is your knee...and not being able to bend it can be awful. What causes the loss of motion? Glad you asked...

Swelling is the Culprit

In the initial days after a meniscus tear, the symptoms of swelling and pain contribute to the loss of motion. Swelling is caused by the initial injury, and that limits your motion by producing a very tight joint, and pain.

Swelling causes the knee joint capsule to distend, or be very stretched. The fluid fills up the joint, and it feels very tight. You can see this just by looking at the looks like a grapefruit. With the joint being very tight, there is a lot of pressure on all of the tissues, and this excites and stimulates all of the nerve receptors...and this causes pain. When you move your knee to bend it, it increases the pressure within the joint, and it causes pain. So pain, caused by swelling, limits your range of motion.

Mechanical Restrictions

The other factor that can limit your range of motion is the torn portion of the meniscus. While the torn piece of the meniscus is not one of the specifc meniscus tear symptoms, it can cause quite a bit of problems. When the meniscus tears, there may be a portion of it that becomes mobile.

Meniscus Tears
Remember the meniscus is shaped like a "C". The area inside the "C" is where the femur and tibia articulate, or touch. The bones need to be able to slide and roll on each other in order for you to move your knee. If the torn part of the meniscus moves into this area, it can become caught between the two bones. Sometimes it just causes more pain, or causes the knee to catch, pop, or click. (Catching, popping, and clicking are other common meniscus tear symptoms.)

Other times, it restricts the motion, and you are unable to bend, or straighten the knee. Loss of motion because of mechanical restrictions usually isn't really apparent until the swelling has gone down some, and your knee is less painful.


Loss of motion is a signficant symptom, and is a result of swelling, and possibly mechanical restrictions. Swelling will subside over time with proper treatment. Mechanical restrictions usually have to be treated surgically.

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