Guide to Treating Burning Knee Pain: Why Are My Knees Burning?

    guide to burning knee pain

    Knee pain is a common health concern that affects a significant portion of the population. According to a global study, the prevalence of knee osteoarthritis, a common cause of knee pain, is 16.0% in individuals aged 15 and over, and it rises to 22.9% in older age groups. The implications of this widespread condition are far-reaching, leading to reduced mobility, impaired functionality, and a decreased quality of life.

    People prone to knee pain span all ages and genders, although more women than men report knee pain, with the overall prevalence of knee pain in women being around 20%. The causes of knee pain are diverse, ranging from acute injuries such as ligament tears to chronic conditions like osteoarthritis.

    One specific type of knee pain is burning knee pain. This specific sensation can have a substantial impact on a person’s everyday activities and general well-being.

    Understanding Burning Knee Pain

    Burning knee pain is a specific type of discomfort characterized by a sensation of heat or burning in one or both knees. It’s not just a symptom but can be a condition in its own right, significantly impacting an individual’s daily activities and overall well-being.

    The experience of burning knee pain can vary greatly among individuals, depending on the underlying cause. Some people describe it as a constant, dull burn, while others experience sharp, intense periods of burning pain. According to one study, descriptors such as “burning” are often associated with a neuropathic pain process, suggesting that this type of knee pain may have a nerve-related component.

    While anyone can experience burning knee pain, certain groups may be more susceptible. Athletes, for example, are particularly susceptible due to the high strain they place on their knees. A study on uncommon causes of knee pain in athletes found that medial knee pain and a sensation of burning were common symptoms.

    Other symptoms accompanying burning knee pain can include redness, swelling, and stiffness in the affected knee. The pain may also worsen with physical activity or at night.

    Causes and Diagnosis of Burning Knee Pain

    Burning knee pain can stem from a variety of conditions, each with unique characteristics:

    Overuse injuries

    These injuries are due to repetitive strain on the knee joint over time, often as a result of activities such as running or jumping. This constant wear and tear can lead to inflammation and damage in the tendons, muscles, and ligaments around the knee, producing a burning sensation.


    Osteoarthritis is a degenerative joint disease that develops when the cartilage that cushions the ends of your bones deteriorates over time. In the knee, this can result in painful bone-on-bone contact, creating friction that can cause a burning sensation during movement or even at rest.

    Ligament tears

    Many ligaments work together to support and stabilize the knee joint. These can tear during high-impact sports or accidents, causing severe and often sudden pain. This kind of injury often results in a sharp, intense burning pain.


    This condition is caused by inflammation or irritation of the tendons, which are thick, fibrous cords that connect muscle to bone. In the knee, this is most commonly seen in athletes who push their bodies too hard without allowing proper recovery time, resulting in persistent burning pain.

    Patellar tracking disorder

    This condition occurs when the kneecap does not move correctly in the groove of the thigh bone during bending and straightening, leading to irritation and inflammation that can cause burning pain.

    Iliotibial band syndrome

    This syndrome commonly affects runners and cyclists and occurs when the ligament that runs down the outside of the thigh from the hip to the shin tightens or becomes inflamed. This can result in a stinging, burning sensation on the outer part of the knee.

    Nerve damage

    Conditions such as peripheral neuropathy, where the peripheral nerves become damaged, can cause burning sensations in various parts of the body, including the knees. This is often accompanied by other symptoms, such as numbness or tingling.

    Burning knee pain can indicate one of these conditions or others, and it’s crucial to get a professional diagnosis. 

    Diagnosing the cause of burning knee pain typically involves a thorough evaluation of your medical history, a physical examination to assess the knee’s movement and stability, and imaging tests such as X-rays or MRIs to visualize the structures of the knee. In order to rule out specific systemic diseases that can cause joint pain, blood tests may also done.

    Treatment and Management of Burning Knee Pain

    Depending on the underlying cause, there are several ways to manage and treat burning knee pain. Here are some common treatments:

    Rest and Recovery

    For overuse injuries, the first line of treatment is often rest. This gives the inflamed or damaged tissues time to heal.

    Physical Therapy

    A physical therapist can teach you exercises to strengthen the muscles around your knee, improving stability and lowering your risk of injury. They can also provide strategies to improve movement patterns and avoid activities that exacerbate the pain.


    Ibuprofen and other over-the-counter pain relievers can help manage pain and reduce inflammation. Doctors may prescribe stronger pain relievers in more severe cases. If the burning sensation is due to nerve damage, certain types of antidepressants or antiepileptic drugs might be used to control the pain.

    Ice and Heat Therapy

    Applying ice to the affected area can help reduce inflammation and numb it, providing temporary relief. Heat therapy, on the other hand, can aid in the relaxation and loosening of tissues as well as the stimulation of blood flow to the area.


    Doctors may recommend injections of corticosteroids or hyaluronic acid into the knee joint to reduce pain and inflammation in some conditions, such as osteoarthritis.


    In severe cases or when other treatments haven’t helped, surgery may be an option. This could involve arthroscopic surgery to repair ligaments or remove damaged cartilage, or even a total knee replacement in extreme cases.

    Lifestyle Modifications

    Maintaining a healthy weight can help reduce knee stress. Low-impact exercise on a regular basis can also help to keep the joints flexible and the supporting muscles strong.

    Do’s and Don’ts for Managing Burning Knee Pain

    It can be very difficult to lead an active and comfortable lifestyle when one has burning knee pain. However, with careful management and by following some key do’s and don’ts, you can help mitigate the symptoms:


    • Do seek professional help: Seeking medical advice is crucial if you are dealing with chronic burning knee pain. They are able to offer an accurate diagnosis and a customized treatment plan for your particular issue.
    • Do follow prescribed treatments: Whether it’s rest, medication, physical therapy, or surgery, following your doctor’s advice is crucial for recovery.
    • Do maintain a healthy weight: Your knees may be more stressed if you are overweight. Eating a balanced diet and engaging in regular exercise can help manage your weight and reduce strain on your joints.
    • Do practice low-impact exercises: Activities like swimming, cycling, or yoga can strengthen your muscles and keep your joints flexible without putting excessive stress on your knees.


    • Don’t ignore the pain: Pain is your body’s way of signaling that something is wrong. Ignoring the pain can lead to further damage and potentially more serious conditions.
    • Don’t overdo physical activities: Overuse is a common cause of knee pain. Listen to your body and give it time to rest and recover after strenuous activities.
    • Don’t skip warm-ups or cool-downs: These are essential parts of any exercise routine. They prepare your body for the activity ahead and help it recover afterward, reducing the risk of injury.
    • Don’t wear worn-out shoes: Good footwear provides support and cushioning for your knees. Make sure your shoes are in good condition, especially when you’re exercising.

    Remember, while these tips can help manage and alleviate symptoms of burning knee pain, they’re not a substitute for professional medical advice. Always consult with a healthcare provider if you’re experiencing persistent or severe pain.