Knee joints are under a lot of physical stress each day. It is very common to experience pain in one or both knees due to normal wear and tear, physical activity, or injury. Often, if a person has a knee injury or strain, the pain can feel as though it is burning.
Burning knee pain can occur in many places in the knee. For many people, the fronts and backs of the knees are the most common spots to feel a burning sensation. Sometimes, however, the sides of the knees can also feel as though they are burning.
A burning sensation in any part of the knee typically indicates that there is a larger problem that may require investigation and treatment.
This article explores some common causes of burning pain in the knee, the typical treatments for them, and when to see a doctor.
The location of the burning knee pain can often give some clues as to what is causing it. The sections below list some causes of location-specific knee pain.
Burning pain in the front of the knee is often due to injuries such as:
If a person has burning pain on the side of the knee, it could be due to iliotibial band syndrome or pes anserine bursitis.
Burning pain behind the knee may be due to:
The following sections detail some potential causes of burning knee pain and how to treat them.
Knee cartilage, or meniscus, helps cushion the joint during physical activities such as walking, running, and jumping. If a person sustains a blunt force injury to this area or twists it forcefully, it can tear the knee cartilage. This is painful and can feel like burning.
There are various treatment options for a knee cartilage tear. Often, the first steps in treatment involve taking pain relief drugs such as ibuprofen and trying muscle strengthening workouts.
If the knee cartilage does not improve, a doctor or healthcare team may recommend steroid injections in the knee or surgical options such as:
Knee ligament tears often occur due to blunt force trauma to the outside of the knee. People who play hockey, football, or other contact sports are at greater risk of tearing or pulling their knee ligaments.
Health professionals often classify ligament tears by how severe they are. A partial tear may require less treatment than a severe tear. Some treatment options for partial tears include:
If the tear is very severe or does not improve, a doctor may recommend surgical options.
Runner’s knee, also known as chondromalacia, occurs as a result of overuse of the knee joint. It is particularly common among runners and other people who put consistent pressure and stress on their knees.
Chondromalacia occurs when the knee cartilage deteriorates, providing less cushioning to the joint.
The first steps in treatment often involve therapies to help reduce pain and swelling and allow the knee to heal. Some treatments include:
If the knee does not improve, a healthcare team may recommend arthroscopic surgery. This involves smoothing the cartilage to allow it to heal better.
Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis in the United States. In fact, around 30.8 million people now live with the condition.
Osteoarthritis can affect nearly any joint, but it is most common in the hands, hips, spine, and knees.
Osteoarthritis is characterized by the wearing down of the protective cartilage in the joints. It is not possible to reverse osteoarthritis, so it may eventually require a joint replacement.
Some common treatments for osteoarthritis include:
Patellar tendinitis is an overuse injury of the tendon that connects the kneecap to the shin. It can cause burning and pain in the front of the knee.
There are several potential treatment steps a person can take to treat patellar tendinitis, including:
If these therapies do not work, a doctor may recommend more invasive therapies, such as a platelet-rich plasma injection or oscillating needle procedure.
Iliotibial band syndrome (ITBS) often affects runners. It occurs when the connective tissue along the length of the thigh rubs against the outside of the knee during running and other physical activities.
ITBS can feel like burning when the band rubs against the side of the knee.
There is no formal treatment for ITBS. However, people with this condition often take some of the following steps:
PFPS occurs in the front of the knee. It often starts as mild pain and gradually builds up. It can occur in one or both knees. It is usually worse during physical activities.
Some general treatment options for PFPS include:
In more severe cases, a doctor may recommend arthroscopic surgery, which involves removing and smoothing damaged cartilage.
In some cases, a person may receive treatment shortly after sustaining a knee injury. In others, a person may first try to deal with the pain they experience, only seeing their doctor when it becomes severe.
For overuse injuries, the best solution is often to rest, apply an ice pack, and focus on muscle building activities that do not put strain on the knees. However, if the pain continues to build despite resting, a person should talk to their doctor about their symptoms.
They may be able to recommend additional therapies, such as physical or occupational therapy. In severe cases, they may even recommend surgical options.
Several things can give rise to burning knee pain. Some injuries are acute and can start causing pain immediately, while others are overuse-related and will build up gradually.
In many cases, taking OTC pain relievers, applying an ice pack, and resting are enough to help prevent further injury and pain. If the pain does not go away or gets worse, however, a doctor may suggest surgery or more invasive treatment options.
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Burning in knee: 7 causes and how to treat them – Medical News Today