What Causes Burning Pain in Knee? (5 Possible Causes)

What Causes Burning Pain in Knee? (5 Possible Causes)

A good workout will cause a good burn, be it in your muscles or your lungs. You'll know you've worked out hard when you feel exerted, but no one wants that burning sensation in the joints. What causes burning pain in knee areas? 

Overuse injuries, arthritis, or just plain sore muscles can use burning pain in knee areas. Sharp, burning pain may bring you to a halt, but it does not have to stop you for long. Once you understand the cause of the burning pain in your knee, you can see the right solution.

What Causes Sharp Burning Pain in the Knee?

Before you identify the cause of sharp burning pain, you need to identify the pain and the location. What does burning pain in the knee mean?

It means that your pain does not just generally ache. You have a sharp, burning sensation in the front, on the side, or on the back of your knee. You can have it while you're kneeling, while you're just standing still, and even when you're sleeping.

1. Burning Pain in Knee When Kneeling

Many people immediately believe they have knee arthritis when they feel pain as they kneel. However, sharp burning pain in knee areas when kneeling does not mean you have to acquiesce to a lifetime of painful arthritis.

Sharp, burning pain in your knee might just mean you have sore muscles.

Picture the anatomy of your knee. The thigh muscles and lower-leg muscles are both attached to your patella or knee cap with tendons.

When you strain your muscles, they fill up with lactic acid, giving them that painful tight sensation after you exercise. Tight muscles d not flex. So as you attempt to flex your knee and muscles do not respond with proper stretching, you may feel a burning sensation in your knees.

2. Burning Pain in Knee Cap

When you feel pain in your knee cap, you imagine the worst. You begin to believe you've injured your knee. Maybe you even wonder if you have a torn meniscus.

Burning pain under or around your knee cap is a common overuse injury. The official diagnosis for this syndrome is chondromalacia or patellofemoral pain syndrome, also known as PFS. The injury is also commonly known as runner's knee.

When you run, you put stress on your knee cap and the tendons in it. If you're not used to running long miles and attempt a long run, you will feel this pain. You will also feel it if you begin to increase your mileage too quickly.

Your tendons in your knee cap are firing up and becoming inflamed. You have tendonitis in your knee or runner's knee.

Stopping activity will help this heal more quickly as will ice and appropriate NSAID or anti-inflammatory medications.

3. Burning Pain In the Back of the Knee

Pain behind your knee could come from any of a handful of causes. You may have an overuse injury similar to what causes runner's knee.

You could also have something more severe like a ligament tear. If you tear a ligament or cartilage, you will most likely have pain no matter what you do, even if you stop the activity. You will also have swelling shortly after you injure your knee.

You could also have a Baker's cyst. A Baker's cyst is an accumulation of fluid in the bursa behind your knee. You may have pain, or you may just have swelling.

The burning pain behind your knee could be your only symptom. Best of all, a Baker's cyst isn't a debilitating diagnosis. You can get the fluid drained and then return to normal activities.

If you suspect a cartilage or ligament tear, begin with cold therapy. This could include a sleeve with an ice pack that you slide over your knee and keep on the knee for fifteen minutes at a time.

4. Burning Pain At the Side of the Knee

Any kind of knee injury or pain causes alarm. When you feel pain at the side of your knee, you often do not have a knee problem at all.

Your knee is a complicated joint where two major bones and sets of muscles meet. If either of those two sets of muscles is injured, then your knee will hurt as a result. The muscles stabilize that joint, so a compromised muscle also compromises the joint.

Your IT band or iliotibial band is a band of connective tissue that runs from your hip to your knee and shin. When the band is tight from exercise, it will rub against your thigh bone, causing friction and pain down to your knee.

Sometimes you will feel the pain from your hip to your knee. Sometimes you just feel pain on the side of your knee.

IT band syndrome or ITBS is a common problem among individuals who fail to stretch before they exercise or individuals who do too much too soon. For example, if you've never ridden a bicycle for more than five miles and attempt to ride fifty miles in a day, you may end up with a sore IT band, and the outside of your knee will burn.

5. Burning Pain When Sitting Still

Some people feel more pain at night than during the day.

You might feel more pain when you're sitting still. Some of us are just too busy to monitor pain. We need debilitating pain to tell us to slow down and be still.

So when you sit down and take a break, do not be surprised if the little niggles of pain begin to visit you.

Your nightly knee pain can also come from reduced hormone signals. When you rest, your hormone signals are reduced. These reduced hormone signals give way for pain signals to reach the brain.

So you'll feel pain as you try to nod off.

Your blood vessels may also be the culprit for pain at night. When you sleep, your blood vessels increase in diameter. This is a natural process that allows more blood to come to muscles, allowing them to heal.

However, those expanding blood vessels can put pressure on your nerves. This will cause pain such as pain in your knee even as you try to sleep.

How to Treat a Burning Knee

Now that you understand the various causes of a burning knee, you can determine the best course of action for treating it. Treatment depends completely on the cause of pain.

Torn Tissue

Knee pain can come from a significant injury like a torn ligament or torn cartilage. In the case of torn tissue, you have a few different options.

If you've turned a ligament partially, a doctor might prescribe physical therapy with muscle-strengthening exercises. He might also recommend you get a knee brace that protects your knee as you continue to exercise. A doctor will also most likely limit your activity, asking you to stop the activities that could cause further damage.

If you've torn your knee ligament completely, you have only one recourse: surgery. Only a surgeon's technique can restore your knee to full capacity after you've completely blown it out.

If you tear knee cartilage, you will have a similar to treatment to what you need when you tear a ligament in your knee. Thus your door may give you muscle strengthening exercise through either physical therapy or just a home exercise program.

With a partial cartilage tear, a doctor may also prescribe NSAIDs or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. Doctors also treat cartilage tears with steroid injections such as cortisone shots.

If you've torn your cartilage significantly, you may need surgery.

A trained knee specialist will give you a few different options.

  1. Osteochondral Autograft Transplantation or OATS: With this procedure, a doctor takes undamaged cartilage from one non-weight-bearing part of your body and moves it to your damaged knee.
  2. Knee Debridement: If you have any loose pieces of cartilage, a doctor will remove the loose pieces and flush the joint with saline or a lavage.
  3. Knee Chondroplasty: When you have damaged cartilage, a doctor can perform a knee chondroplasty where they smooth out the cartilage and reduce joint friction.
  4. Autologous Chondrocyte Implantation: This procedure is the most complicated of the four procedures. In this case, a doctor will remove the cartilage and send it to the lab for cultivation. Then the doctor puts the cultivated cartilage back into your knee where it then grows into a healthy cartilage replacement.

Knee Arthritis

Pain does not necessarily mean you have arthritis. However, arthritis will mean you have pain. Arthritis is one of the most common reasons for knee pain, with 10 percent of men and 13 percent of women suffering from it.

Your first response to knee arthritis is simple: over-the-counter pain management medications like the acetametaphin found in Tylenol or the ibuprofen found in Advil or Motrin IB. Naproxen sodium like what you find in Aleve also works well.

Cortisone injections are also a popular and quick solution for knee pain caused by arthritis. Physical and occupational therapy is making its way into more natural treatments for arthritis as well.

A healthy lifestyle is one of your best strategies for countering the burning pain that knee arthritis can cause. Often arthritis stems from being overweight, so if you can get your weight under control, you will see your pain lessen.

If arthritis persists throughout the years, you may eventually need a knee replacement.

Runner's Knee

Runner's knee or chondromalacia occurs when the cartilage under your knee cap deteriorates. Begin treating runner's knee first with ice when you have pain during exercise. Then use an over-the-counter medication to counter the pain relief and reduce inflammation.

Runner's knee will calm down when you give your knee a rest. This means no more weight-bearing exercise that pounds on the joint. You should also avoid kneeling or squatting.

If you have a severe case of runner's knee, you may need to stabilize your knee with the proper brace that will keep the patella in line. A patellar-tracking sleeve is a great option that helps with runner's knee.

If the cartilage damage is severe, your doctor may recommend an arthroscopic procedure where they go in and clip off cartilage flaps.

Knee Tendinitis

Tendinitis of the knee or patellar tendinitis happens commonly when the tendon in your knee cap flares up. You will see this happen when you exercise intensely after a long period of rest.

Patellar tendinitis is a treatable condition. You should start with the basics of rest and ice. Take a couple of days off of activity to let the tendons calm down, and ice the knee to reduce your swelling.

Use pain management medications like over-the-counter pain relievers.

Then, begin building the muscles up surrounding your knee. The stronger those muscles are, the more stable your knee will be. Focus on strengthening your thigh, shin, hamstring, and calf muscles.

Also, take time to stretch your leg. Limber muscles surrounding your knee will put less strain on the tendons and ligaments that connect your muscles to your knee joint.

If these natural treatments do not work, your doctor could recommend a more invasive treatment like an oscillating needle procedure or an injection of platelet-rich plasma.


Iliotibial band syndrome or ITBS is a nagging, annoying injury. It can manifest itself in your hip, on the side of your thigh, or just on the side of your knee, where the band is pulling.

Runners experience ISBS commonly. When they feel that burning knee pain, they know exactly what's wrong.

To treat ITBS, you need to first, and foremost, stop running.

This does not mean a runner should stop moving, though. Runners should give themselves a running break and head to the pool to do some swimming or aqua jogging. They can also dust off their bicycle and cycling helmet and begin biking.

Runners with ITBS need to invest in a small but painful tool, the foam roller. A foam roller is a cylinder made of dense foam. Runners suffering from ITBS can use the cylinder as a means for painfully massaging out the tight IT band.

Runners should also begin to focus on strengthening their hips, quads, and general core area to compensate for the weak IT band.

Burn Fat, Not Knees

Burning pain in knee areas does not mean you're burning fat. It can signal a serious knee problem and need some assistance.

A basic knee brace may be a part of that solution.

Check out our wide selection of knee braces.


  • linda lumsden

    i have had my knee burning for 17 days travling down the back of my leg to my ancle what is the cause of this and when will it go away so much pain so upset thinking its something serious

  • linda lumsden

    i have had my burning knees going down to the side on my leg right down to my ancle 17 days what is the cause of this and when will it go away

  • Brenda

    The explanations are quite clear and on point. Please what is your speciaty because I need someone like you that understands this pain for treatment.

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