Burning knee pain or having a burning sensation in the knee can be the result of a number of different ailments or disorders. Having pain in any part of the body is usually a sign that something is causing a problem and requires your attention. This is part of a joint that connects your thigh to your leg. Over time, your knee joints could wear down, causing pain.
Burning knee pain does not only occur due to trauma but can also be the result of damaged nerves. This is medically known as paresthesia. A metabolic condition such as diabetes and even alcohol abuse can lead to a burning sensation in the knee known as peripheral neuropathy.
Why is there a burning sensation in my knee?
Feelings of burning knee pain can originate from external and internal sources. Spilling a corrosive substance on your knee, for example, will lead to burning knee pain. Several pathological conditions that occur internally may affect the entire body, but may also specifically present as burning knee pain. The following are just some examples:
Occurs due to the accumulation of urate crystals in the joint, causing inflammation and intense pain. These crystals can form when you have high uric acid in the blood. Your body innately produces uric acid when it breaks down purines-substances that are found naturally in the body as well as in certain foods, such as steak, organ meats, and seafood. Other foods that promote higher levels of uric acid include alcoholic beverages and drinks sweetened with fructose (fruit sugar).
The most common form of arthritis and is due to wear and tear of the protective cartilage found on the ends of the bone. Osteoarthritis can affect any joint in your body, but the disorder commonly affects the joints of the hands, knees, hips, and spine. The disorder worsens over time and can cause joint inflammation and swelling, leading to the development of burning knee pain.
Chronic inflammation of the joint that results in pain, redness, swelling, and stiffness of the joints. The condition may also cause inflammation of ligaments, muscles, and tendons. Rheumatoid arthritis is a type of autoimmune disease with an unknown origin of onset. A characteristic feature of the condition is inflammatory arthritis, which can present as knee effusion.
Nerve damage in the lower extremities can lead to burning knee pain called peripheral neuropathy. This condition is often described as causing a “pins and needles” type of sensation called paranesthesia. Common neuropathic causes of burning knee pain include nerve compression, nerve entrapment, diabetes, and alcohol abuse.
Acute injuries to the knee, especially during a sporting activity, can cause pain, swelling, and stiffness. There is also a high chance of the tendons, muscles, and ligaments become injured or being torn altogether. This may lead to conditions such as tendinitis, bursitis, and burning knee pain.
Bacteria and viruses are known for causing infection and disease. There exist several types of organisms that can settle in the knee joint, leading to infection and the development of burning knee pain.
Health conditions accompanying knee burning sensation
Burning knee pain can be quite worrisome for many people, which is why seeing a doctor about this symptom is often recommended. The following are some signs you should be aware of that should prompt you to go see your local physician right away:
- You suspect a possible fracture: This is often signified by not being able to place your weight on the affected knee, as it causes unbearable pain. A cast may be needed to ensure proper healing.
- Develop a fever: Your knee may also be hot to the touch, red, and swollen. These are the hallmark signs of an infection that will need medical attention and possible antibiotic treatment.
- Accompanying wound: If you have a large wound on your knee, seeking medical attention right away should be your priority. Because you use your knee joint every day, moving it around without stitches or proper immobilization can lead to poor wound healing.
- Severe pain that wakes you up at night: This may be a sign that an underlying condition is causing your burning knee pain and should be looked at by an experienced doctor.
Symptoms that co-exist with a knee burning sensation
Knowing that burning knee pain can be caused by a multitude of different causes, the symptoms of your particular presentation may differ from another person’s. The following are some of the most commonly seen symptoms that present with burning knee pain.
- Joint stiffness
- Leg pain and swelling
- Muscle weakness
- Redness or warmth
- Blistering or oozing fluid
- Tingling or other unusual sensations in the hands or feet
Other possible accompanying symptoms
- Burning feeling elsewhere in the extremities
- Pain felt else ware in the extremities
- Stiffness or swelling of other joints
Possibly serious accompanying symptoms
- Slurred speech
- Progressive weakness and numbness in the legs
- Loss or changes in vision
Diagnosing and treating knee burning sensation
The first thing your doctor will do is examine the affected joint. Documentation of the pain, warmth, any discoloration, the range of motion, and the size will be taken. Detailed information about the joint will be asked to get a better idea how it’s probably onset.
Preliminary tests using ultrasound or MRI may be ordered depending on the suspected cause of burning knee pain and can help provide evidence of fluid accumulation within the joint. Ultrasound, in particular, can be a speedy and convenient choice for a quick diagnosis. An x-ray may also be obtained to rule out any potential fracture. Blood tests may be taken to help diagnose any causes of bacterial infection affecting the body.
Depending on the underlying cause of burning knee pain, treatment will often follow suit. The following are some of the most commonly implemented treatments:
Constantly putting stress on your joints will make it difficult for the recovery process. Not taking the time to rest will often worsen gout pain. Elevating the leg can also help relieve pressure on your knee joint and return blood to the upper part of the body.
This may be done by simply applying ice on the affected joint to help reduce pain and swelling. Using an ice pack is ideal, but ice cubes in a towel or a bag of frozen vegetables will also do the trick. It is recommended to ice the affected part of the body for about 15 to 20 minutes every two to four hours.
Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
A common pain-relieving medication that can be commonly found in many pharmacies and grocery stores. They are designed to reduce pain and swelling. However, long-term use of these drugs may lead to liver damage and even increase the risk of heart attacks. NSAIDs can also be found in topical solutions and don’t pose as much risk as oral formats. NSAIDs such as ibuprofen or naproxen can work well if taken soon after symptoms develop.
Once the pain and burning sensation have gone down, performing strength and balance exercise can help ensure your knee has muscle support to reduce the chances of injury in the future. Exercises will often focus on the quadriceps, leg, and surrounding muscles. It is recommended to seek the aid of a trained physiotherapist when attempting to perform exercises after severe knee injuries.
Depending on the cause of your burning knee pain, your doctor may suggest other treatment options. It’s important to consult with healthcare providers when pain is having an impact on your daily routine. If you can’t bear weight on your knee or if your knee buckles, clicks, locks, looks deformed, or is extremely painful, you should contact a medical professional. The general rule is, if you are experiencing pain and discomfort after three days, it is time to seek help.
- Gout in knee: Causes, symptoms, diagnosis, treatment and home remedies of knee gout
- Stiff knee after sitting, running, and exercising: Causes and treatments