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Burning and Stabbing Pain On Inside Of Knee

Image of burning and stabbing pain in the knee

Burning and Stabbing Pain On Inside Of Knee

This article provides you with information about all the common causes of burning and stabbing pain in the knee alongside the best treatments available for it. The knee carries a lot of responsibility as it helps you locomote and carry out daily chores. The knee allows you to bend the legs and serves as a cushion for the lower limbs. The knee joint is prone to a lot of friction and wear and tear owing to its anatomical structure. Multiple soft and hard tissues make up the knee, and abnormalities with these structures can lead to burning knee pain.

Burning sensation paired with knee pain can seriously hamper you and interfere with your day-to-day activities. Knee burning pain can be the manifestation of a number of conditions ranging from gouty arthritis to nerve abnormalities.

Causes Of Burning Knee Pain

Knee pain with burning sensation mostly points towards underlying nerve involvement. However, there are various causes of burning knee pain. Burning sensations can be felt in the different regions of the knee which are the front, side, and back of the knee.

The most common knee pain causes are discussed below:

Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome (Chondromalacia Patella)

Also known as runner’s knee, chondromalacia patella is a knee pain condition characterized by the softening of cartilage (inner side) of the patella (knee cap). Patellofemoral pain syndrome is commonly seen in athletes and is usually the outcome of overuse injuries.

The development of this pain is attributed to abruptions in the patellar tendon strap (patella tendon) that provide support to the knee joint.

In this condition, the burning sensation is felt in the anterior region (front of the knee) and only affects one leg (unilateral). Runner’s knee occurs in individuals carrying out hectic activities. Abnormal muscle balance and overuse can lead to deterioration of the kneecap and the development of PFPS.

As knee pain due to PFPS (chondromalacia) occurs in athletes and players, it is termed runner’s knee. Almost all athletes complain about burning knee pain in the front of the knee (and knee cap).

Research indicates an underlying neuropathic abnormality in PFPS that might explain the burning pain in the knee.

Iliotibial Band Syndrome (ITBS) as a cause of stabbing pain in the knee

When knee burning pain is experienced in the lateral aspect i.e. side of the knee, the condition is termed Iliotibial band syndrome. Knee overuse disorders include PFPS and ITBS.

Trauma or overuse can irritate and swell up the iliotibial band tendon which can further cause compression of the nerves. It can affect one or both knees.

Burning pain in the knee (lateral aspect) is a common symptom of this syndrome, thus, it is easily diagnosed. This is one of the most common conditions that cause a burning sensation in the knee.

The syndrome usually manifests itself in the form of a burning sensation with knee pain in the lateral femoral epicondyle of the knee. A 2020 study indicates that conservative treatment might be helpful in alleviating this location-specific knee pain.

Athletes exposed to physical stress suffer from this syndrome and often complain of burning knee pain, a study suggests.

Inflammation of knee soft tissues as a cause of burning pain in the knee

A common cause of burning pain in the knee is inflammation of the soft tissues that make up the joint. Connective tissue of the knee (knee cartilage, ligaments, tendons, etc.) and muscles can undergo wear and tear leading to knee pain.

Different soft tissue complications that can trigger pain include:

Bursitis

Knee bursitis is the inflammation of small fluid-filled pockets or sacs (bursa)present in the joint. The bursae get inflamed in response to injury or overuse.

Pain due to knee bursitis is more pronounced when kneeling down and is pretty common in individuals exposed to heavy loads. This type of pain is felt in the front of the knee.

Tendonitis

Patellar tendinitis is another condition that is the outcome of overuse injury. Also known as jumper’s knee, patellar tendinitis is common in volleyball players. Just like PFPS, it is also a common overuse injury characterized by burning knee pain.

Pain due to patellar tendinitis is almost always felt on the outside of the knee.

Hamstring tendonitis may also contribute to burning knee pain with pain signals running into the legs as well.

Arthritis as a cause of sharp stabbing pain in the knee that comes and goes

Arthritis pain can be associated with burning pain especially when there is nerve involvement. There are two types of arthritis affecting the knee:

Osteoarthritis

Arthritis pain due to knee arthritis may be accompanied by a burning sensation. Studies show that OA patients are more prone to knee cartilage tear. The extent of cartilage tear/defect depends on the severity of osteoarthritis.

Surgical intervention becomes inevitable in cases of extensive knee joint damage. Such patients experience persistent knee pain.

Rheumatoid Arthritis

Patients suffering from rheumatoid arthritis (autoimmune disorder) might also experience burning knee pain.

Injury/Trauma And Tearing as a cause of sharp stabbing pain in the knee that comes and goes

A knee injury might be a penetrating cause of burning knee pain. Blunt force trauma to the knee joint can have a grave impact on knee cartilage, and knee bones leaving behind damaged cartilage.

Cartilage Tear

A torn piece of cartilage can also be the source of burning knee pain. Trauma or sports injury can be the possible causes of cartilage damage and consequent causes of knee pain.

Ligament Tear

Ligament tears are a common cause of pain in the body. A torn ligament or a torn meniscus can seriously affect your day-to-day activities. A lateral collateral ligament tear or a lateral meniscus tear can induce pain in the side of the knee.

Gout

High uric acid levels in the blood can lead to the build-up of uric crystals in the knee joint. These crystals lead to evident inflammation that eventually impinges the nearby nerves causing burning pain.

Peripheral Artery Disease

Narrowing of the arteries in the limbs is a condition that might trigger pain in the leg and the knee region. The malady is known as peripheral artery disease.

The compromised blood flow to the limbs can lead to resting pain and even gangrene in the legs.

Cysts As A Cause Of Sharp Stabbing Pain in the Knee That Comes And Goes

The presence of a fluid-filled cyst may cause burning knee pain. Studies have revealed baker’s cyst to be a common cause of posterior knee pain (back of the knee).

Also known as the popliteal cyst, it is present in the space behind the knee. The burning knee pain from the baker’s cyst worsens when the patient extended or flexes the knee.

Treatment Of Burning Pain In Knee

Prolozone Therapy

Many of the structures in the knee have a poor blood supply, which is why they can struggle to heal on their own. It is the oxygen and nutrients in our blood supply that help to heal these structures.

Prolozone Therapy involves the injection of oxygen and nutrients into these structures to provide a direct supply of what is required to heal and repair.

As the treatment is helping to treat the root cause of the problem, it is deemed to be a permanent fix.

The main aim of the treatment in most cases is to reduce joint friction and provide pain relief.

Rest And Medications

Overuse injuries can be dealt with sufficient rest and over-the-counter pain medications (ibuprofen, etc.). In most mild cases, the pain goes away by these maneuvers.

You might also use an ice pack (cold therapy) to alleviate pain and inflammation in the knee.

Steroid Injections

Cortisone injections (steroid injections) into the pain site are employed to provide instant relief. Local steroid injections are the choice of treatment in cases of severe acute pain. These injections start working in a few hours.

Arthroscopic Surgery For Sharp Stabbing Pain in the Knee That Comes And Goes

Severe cases are managed by going for arthroscopic surgery. There are various types of surgical procedures that are performed to ease the patient.

Knee debridement works for most patients where loose cartilage is removed.

The doctor might opt for a knee chondroplasty surgery where damaged cartilage is smoothed. This reduces friction between bones (thigh bone and knee joint).

Severe arthritis patients having high levels of joint damage are advised to have knee replacement surgery to cure pain and discomfort.

Support And Strengthening

Patients suffering from burning knee pain due to knee ligament tears are diagnosed using X-rays.

Treatment comprises muscle-strengthening exercises after a period of rest. Exercises are carried out with protective/supportive knee braces to prevent complications.

Exercise And Occupational Therapy For Burning Pain In The Knee

Massage and occupational therapy can soothe the muscles and allow a better range of motion. Muscle strengthening exercises are helpful in reducing burning knee pain.

Massaging the leg and knee can be a beneficial step as it improves blood flow and reduces the tension of the muscles/soft tissues.

An athlete with burning and stabbing pain in knee

Conclusion

Burning pain in the knee can be the outcome of a number of underlying conditions. Burning sensations accompanied by pain are mostly indicative of nerve involvement. The major causes of such pain are patellofemoral pain syndrome (PFPS) and iliotibial band syndrome (ITBS) which cause burning knee pain in the front and side of the knee respectively. Apart from these overuse injuries, one might fall prey to inflammation of the soft tissues (bursitis, tendonitis, etc.) due to overuse or infection. Blunt force trauma may rupture the ligaments, tendons, and cartilages in the knee joint (femur and patella) leading to burning pain. Arthritis (osteo, rheumatoid, and gouty) and peripheral artery disease can disintegrate the joints and blood vessels of the leg causing pain and loss of mobility, Baker’s cyst in the back of the knee is another culprit. Treatment by healthcare providers includes rest, OTC pain killers, massage therapy, corticosteroid injections, ligament repair, and arthroscopic surgery for severe cases. Knee braces are part of medical advice for patients with ligament tears while total knee replacement is the only option for advanced knee osteoarthritis patients.

FAQs

Q1. Can Arthritis Cause Burning Pain In My Knee?

A. Yes, prolonged arthritis can lead to a burning pain sensation in your knee.

Q2. How Can I Alleviate Burning Pain In The Knee and stabbing pain?

A. The best way to get rid of burning pain in the knee is to apply cold/ice to the knee joint. This reduces inflammation and associated pain. Painkillers such as ibuprofen may also help.

Q3. How To Know If My Pain Is Serious?

A. You should report to the doctor if experiencing the following signs:

  • Having fever with visible redness in the knee
  • Are unable to extend/flex your knee
  • There is evident swelling on the knee
  • Can not bear your weight on the knee

References

  1. Jensen, Roar, Alice Kvale, and Anders Baerheim. “Is pain in patellofemoral pain syndrome neuropathic?.” The Clinical journal of pain 24.5 (2008): 384-394.
  2. Fredericson, Michael, Marc Guillet, and Len DeBenedictis. “Quick solutions for iliotibial band syndrome.” The Physician and Sportsmedicine 28.2 (2000): 52-68.
  3. Friede, Miriam C., et al. “Conservative treatment of iliotibial band syndrome in runners: Are we targeting the right goals?.” Physical Therapy in Sport (2021).
  4. Fredericson, Michael, and Adam Weir. “Practical management of iliotibial band friction syndrome in runners.” Clinical Journal of Sport Medicine 16.3 (2006): 261-268.
  5. Ding, Cicuttini, Flavia Cicuttini, and Graeme Jones. “Tibial subchondral bone size and knee cartilage defects: relevance to knee osteoarthritis.” Osteoarthritis and cartilage 15.5 (2007): 479-486.
  6. Frush, Todd J., and Frank R. Noyes. “Baker’s cyst: diagnostic and surgical considerations.” Sports Health 7.4 (2015): 359-365.
  7. Halperin, Jonathan L. “Evaluation of patients with peripheral vascular disease.” Thrombosis research 106.6 (2002): V303-V311.

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