Health blog

Struggling with burning pain in your knee? These 3 PT treatments can help

April 1st, 2024

Have burning pain in your knee? Knee pain is a common condition, as about 25% of adults experience knee pain. 


Burning knee pain may make it difficult for you to walk and bend down to pick up objects. You may experience these difficulties because of a variety of issues; fortunately, there are physical therapy treatments that can address your burning knee pain.


3 PT treatment options for burning pain in the knee


Physical therapy can provide treatment options for burning knee pain that can help you avoid surgery. Researchers have also found that people ranked physical therapy as more effective in reducing their knee pain compared to NSAIDs (i.e., pain-relieving medications).


Here are some common ways that physical therapists can treat burning knee pain:

  • Virtual physical therapyVirtual physical therapy typically involves one-on-one Zoom-type online sessions with a licensed physical therapist. During these individualized sessions, a physical therapist will ask you questions about your symptoms and observe your knee and how you can move it. They can then identify the cause of your burning knee pain and use that information to create a treatment plan. Here are two key benefits of virtual physical therapy for burning knee pain:

  • Convenience — If you’re experiencing burning knee pain, it may hurt just to move it. With virtual physical therapy, you can schedule an appointment for burning knee pain without leaving your home.

  • Affordability — Virtual PT is covered by most insurance providers.  In addition, you’ll save on costs like gas and car wear and tear since you’ll have your sessions at home rather than at a PT clinic.  


Have more questions about virtual PT? Check out our virtual care FAQ page

  • Aquatic therapy — Having difficulty walking because of burning knee pain? Aquatic therapy is a physical therapy technique involving a physical therapist guiding you through knee exercises in a heated pool. The buoyancy of the water places less pressure on your knee joint. 


The reduced pressure provides several benefits. First, the weight-free environment can allow you to move your knee more freely. Second, as you move more regularly, you can strengthen the muscles around your knee joint. This can reduce your burning knee pain by allowing your muscles to take more pressure off your knee joint. Third, moving in a weight-free environment can help reset your nervous system. The nervous system reset can help improve the coordination of your muscles. The more coordinated your muscles are, the easier it may be for you to do common movements such as walking and running.

  • Dry needling Dry needling is a physical therapy technique that can reduce your burning knee pain. This technique uses a dry needle, which is a needle without any medication or injection. A licensed physical therapist will insert the dry needle into the specific area of your knee where you’re feeling pain. The dry needle can access parts of your knee muscles that the hands of a physical therapist would not be able to.


Dry needling doesn’t typically involve any major pain or discomfort. As soon as the dry needles are placed in your knee, your knee muscles may tighten briefly before loosening. You may also experience a mild soreness after a dry needling session that’s similar to the soreness you feel after a good workout. 


What causes burning pain in the knee?


Asking yourself, “Why do I have a burning pain in my knee?” The more you know about the cause of your pain, the better informed you’ll be heading into physical therapy. And that makes you a more effective partner as you’re working through the treatment plan your physical therapist builds for you. Having information about the potential causes of your knee pain may also encourage you to seek treatment for it sooner.


The causes of burning knee pain vary depending on where the burning pain in the knee is located and if you’re doing specific movements:


Common cause associated with burning pain in the front of the knee


  • Chondromalacia — Chondromalacia occurs when the cartilage between your kneecap and thighbone weakens. It’s also commonly known as runner’s knee. If you’re a runner, you may be more likely to have chondromalacia, as it develops from repeated overuse of or stress on your knee. This condition can trigger burning pain in the kneecap area. 


Common cause associated with burning pain on the side of the knee


  • Iliotibial band syndrome (ITBS) — Are you a runner or just like to run as a hobby? ITBS is a common condition that runners experience. This condition involves the fascia that makes up the IT band rubbing against the top of the femur (lower leg) bone where it runs into your knee joint. 


ITBS tends to occur while you run or engage in other movements where you are repeatedly bending and straightening your knee. 


  • Pinched peroneal nerve — A pinched peroneal nerve occurs when a high level of pressure is placed on the nerve that runs along the outside of your knee. This nerve is most often pinched by being compressed against your lower leg bone. 


For instance, crossing your legs or spending a lot of time in a squatting position can compress the peroneal nerve. This pressure prevents the nerve from carrying out its typical functions and can trigger a burning pain on the outside of your lower leg and knee. 


  • Meniscus tear — The menisci are two C-shaped pieces of cartilage in your knee. They’re located on each side of your knee joint between the ends of the thighbone and the shinbone. Your mensici help cushion these two bones as you walk, run, and do other physical activities. If you bang your knee against something or sharply twist your knee, then a meniscus may tear. 


If this cartilage tears, then you may feel burning pain in one side of your knee. You may also feel pain at the back of your knee. The location of your pain will depend on where on the meniscus the tear occurs. You’re more likely to develop a meniscus tear if you play a contact sport like football or sports and activities that involve pivoting.


Common causes associated with burning pain in the back of the knee


  • Knee ligament tear — Are you a hockey or football player? If so, then you may be more likely to tear a ligament in your knee. This is because a common way the posterior cruciate ligament (PCL) can tear when you get hit hard on the front of your knee. If you fall hard on your bent knee, you may also tear your PCL. 


The PCL is located in the back of your knee, which is why the pain it causes is typically felt at the back of your knee. It is one of the four ligaments that join together your thighbone and shinbone.


There are two types of ligament tears that could happen in your PCL: partial and complete. A partial ligament tear refers to a tear that does not go completely through your knee ligament. If you have a partial ligament tear, then you may feel like your knee is unstable and have difficulty walking or going down stairs. 


A complete ligament tear refers to cases where your knee ligament is completely or almost completely torn in two. If you have a complete ligament tear, then you may not be able to put any pressure on the injured knee or move it at all without pain.


Common causes of burning pain in the knee when kneeling


Regardless of the specific location of the burning pain in your knee, you may experience this type of pain when kneeling. As kneeling is a common daily activity, it may be helpful to know about some causes of burning pain when kneeling so you can receive more targeted treatment.


Here are four common causes of burning knee pain when kneeling:

  • Patellar tendinitis — Patellar tendinitis or jumper’s knee occurs when your patellar tendon, which connects the front of your knee to your shinbone, is injured. This connective tissue helps you do physical actions such as running and jumping through coordination with your thigh muscles. If you are a basketball or volleyball player, you may be more likely to develop patellar tendinitis, as these sports include a lot of jumping. Physical therapy can help treat this injury through stretching and strengthening exercises focused on your knee muscles.

  • Patellofemoral syndrome — Patellofemoral syndrome or runner’s knee involves burning pain at the front of your knee—specifically between the front of your knee and your thighbone. If you play a sport that requires a lot of running and jumping, you may be more likely to develop patellofemoral syndrome. This is because running and jumping place more pressure on your knees.

  • Bursitis — Your bursae are fluid-filled sacs that provide a cushion between tendons or muscles and bones. There are three bursae in the front of your knee. Knee bursitis is a condition that occurs because one or more of these knee bursae have become inflamed. This condition may occur because of overuse (e.g., kneeling for a long period) or injury (e.g., falling on your knees). 

  • Osteoarthritis — Osteoarthritis occurs when the cartilage structures in your knee joint wear down over time. This wearing leads to your knee bones pressing and rubbing against one another, resulting in pain. This condition is particularly common in females over 65 years old. However, men over 65 also have a high risk of developing knee osteoarthritis. 


Rehab Access can help treat burning knee pain through multiple PT treatment options


Have burning knee pain and struggling to complete your daily activities? Physical therapy can help reduce this pain by improving your movement, balance and coordination. It can also help you strengthen muscles that support your knee joint.


At Rehab Access, our physical therapists will evaluate how your knee pain is impacting your physical condition and performance. They will then use this information to create a personalized treatment plan to help treat your pain in the most efficient way. Our team may use the following physical therapy techniques to treat your burning knee pain:


  • Virtual physical therapy.
  • In-clinic therapeutic exercises.
  • Aquatic therapy.
  • Dry needling.


Our team at Rehab Access values high-quality customer service through hands-on care and on-one-on interactions. Our physical therapists strive to improve the quality of all aspects of our patients’ lives.


Call us or request an appointment today for more information about treatments for burning pain in the knee.