What Can Cause Burning Pain or Burning Sensation

Burning pain is local or generalized pain and depends on the cause of the pain. Burning pain may be associated with tingling, numbness or weakness of extremity.

Burning Pain or Burning Sensation

Types of Burning Pain or Burning Sensation

Peripheral Origin of Burning Pain or Burning Sensation

Pain Receptors

  • Pain carrying fibers has sensitive peripheral elements known as of nerve endings and nerve receptors.
  • Peripheral origin of burning pain results following irritation of peripheral pain receptors or nerve ending.

Pain Nerves

Nerve carries pain impulses from pain receptors located in skin, subcutaneous tissue, muscles, tendon, ligaments, bones and viscera. The pinch or irritation of the pain carrying nerve causes radicular pain, mono-neuritis or polyneuritis. Burning pain is spread along the nerve.

Central Origin of Burning Pain or Burning Sensation

Spinal Cord

Inflammation of the nerve within spinal cord may result in wide spread pain as seen in multiple sclerosis.


Stroke or ischemia of brain (Cortex or Thalamus) causes severe wide spread central burning pain.

Characteristics of Burning Pain or Burning Sensation

Local Pain Characteristics

Animal bites or herpes simplex causes local burning pain.

Regional Pain Characteristics

Peripheral neuropathy often results in burning pain spread along distal (peripheral) skin of one or all four extremities.

Dermatomal Pain Characteristics

Burning pain caused by radicular pain is spread along the distribution of entire nerve.

Central Pain Characteristics

Thalamic pain syndrome or multiple sclerosis causes wide spread burning pain.

Causes of Burning Pain Or Burning Sensation

Burning Pain Can Be Due To:

  • Irritation of peripheral receptors
  • Pinch or irritation of peripheral nerve
  • Pinch or irritation of spinal nerves near vertebral column and spinal canal
  • Irritation of spinal cord
  • Irritation of thalamus.

Example of Medical Condition That Can Cause Burning Pain-

  • Peripheral Neuropathy- Inflammation of peripheral and central nerve within spinal cord causes severe sharp burning pain. Pain is often spread along peripheral nerve observed in peripheral neuropathy.
  • Multiple Sclerosis- Inflammation of nerves within spinal cord causes central neuralgia. Central neuralgia like multiple sclerosis causes wide spread burning pain with tingling, numbness and stiffness
  • Frostbite- Exposure to severe cold causes freezing of the exposed skin resulting in irritation of peripheral nerve and nerve receptors. Burning pain become predominant when skin starts getting warm.
  • Radicular Pain- Radicular pain spreads along arm, leg, chest wall or abdominal wall. Radicular pain is caused by irritation or pinch of the spinal nerve in epidural space, spinal canal or intervertebral foramina. Burning pain is often associated with tingling, numbness or weakness. Radicular pain is caused by disc herniation, disc bulge, spinal stenosis or foraminal stenosis.
  • Sciatica- Radicular pain involving more than one spinal nerve in lower leg is also known as sciatica pain.
  • Cutaneous Pain- Cutaneous pain around genitals and mouth is caused by irritation of pain receptors and peripheral pain nerve ending. The irritation is caused by cutaneous (skin) and genital mucosa infection by the herpes simplex virus. Burning pain is often associated with itching.
  • Dermatitis (Skin Infection)- Infection of skin and subcutaneous tissue causes burning pain and itching.
  • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome- Irritation or pinch of the median nerve in carpal tunnel causes severe burning pain spread along the median nerve distribution in hand.
  • Animal Bites- Snake, spider or scorpion bite causes spill of venom under the skin. Venom irritates nerve receptors and nerve ending resulting in severe burning pain. Venom when absorbed in blood also causes severe systemic life threatening reaction.

Causes of Burning Pain Or Burning Sensation due to Animal Bites

Burning Pain or Burning Sensation Due to Visceral Pain

Pain is generated at pain receptors and nerve endings located within the viscera or organs. Visceral or organs belongs to gastrointestinal, respiratory, uro-genital, cardiovascular and endocrinal system.

  • Gastrointestinal Reflux Disease (GERD)- GERD is a reflux of stomach content in reverse direction. The acidic stomach content is pushed into esophagus resulting in epigastric burning pain known as heartburn. GERD often is associated with regurgitation of stomach content in to throat.

Burning Pain or Burning Sensation Due to GERD

  • Mucosal Ulcer- Mucosal ulcer or canker sore observed in mouth causes severe continuous burning pain. Canker or oral ulcer could be one or multiple. Ulcer may be caused by vitamin deficiency or mucosal trauma. Healing could take days or weeks. Canker sore causes severe burning pain while eating normal food or citric drinks.

Burning Pain or Burning Sensation Due to Mucosal Ulcer

Burning Pain or Burning Sensation Due to Sympathetic Pain

Pain impulses from pain receptors and nerve ending carried to spinal cord by somatic nerves or sympathetic nerves is called Sympathetic Pain. Sympathetic pain is also known as Causalgia (Complex Regional Pain Syndrome Type 1) or Reflex Sympathetic Disorder (Complex Regional Pain Syndrome Type 2).

  • Shingles- Shingles is also known as Post-herpetic Neuralgia a severe pain along the infected nerve. The spinal nerve is infected by a shingles virus within spinal cord and results in inflammatory severe pain associated with blisters spread along the nerve endings.

Burning Pain or Burning Sensation Due to Shingles

  • Peripheral Vascular Disease (PVD)- Burning pain is observed along the peripheral blood vessels. Pain is caused by decreased blood supply to peripheral tissue by vasoconstriction of the blood vessels. Vasoconstriction causes narrowing of blood vessel. Lack of oxygen causes tissue damage, which irritates nerve receptors and nerve ending of pain carrying nerve fibers and results in burning pain.
  • Thalamic Pain Syndrome- Thalamic pain syndrome is a rare disease. Thalamic pain syndrome follows stroke or ischemia (lack of blood supply) to thalamus. Widespread burning pain is observed.

Written, Edited or Reviewed By:


Last Modified On: June 20, 2015

Pain Assist Inc.

Pramod Kerkar
  Note: Information provided is not a substitute for physician, hospital or any form of medical care. Examination and Investigation is necessary for correct diagnosis.

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