You may feel a burning sensation on your skin, in your abdomen, or on another part of your body. A wide range of conditions from herpes to acid reflux to nerve damage may be responsible.

A burning sensation is a type of pain that’s distinct from dull, stabbing, or aching pain. A burning pain can be related to nerve problems.

However, there are many other possible causes. Injuries, infections, and autoimmune disorders have the potential to trigger nerve pain and, in some cases, cause nerve damage.

Many medical conditions that cause a burning sensation have no cure, but treatments are helpful in managing the pain. You should seek treatment from a healthcare professional if you’re concerned about a burning sensation and suspect you have a health problem.

One of the most common reasons for burning pain is damage or dysfunction in the nervous system. This system is made up of the central nervous system (CNS) and the peripheral nervous system (PNS).

The CNS is the primary command center and includes your brain and spinal cord. The PNS consists of the nerves that branch out from your brain and spine, connecting the rest of your body to the CNS.

Several different types of nerve and spine conditions may cause burning pain as a symptom:

  • Central pain syndrome is a brain disorder that occurs when the nerves in the CNS are damaged. The condition can cause different types of painful sensations, including burning and aching.
  • Cervical spondylosis is a result of aging. Wear and tear on the bones and cartilage in your neck can cause compression on the nerves. This leads to chronic neck pain along with a burning sensation.
  • A herniated disk occurs when a disk in your spine slips out of place. The disks protect the bones in your spinal cord by absorbing shock from daily activities, such as walking and twisting. When a disk moves out of place, it can compress a nerve and cause burning pain. It may also cause numbness or muscle weakness.
  • Mononeuropathy is a group of conditions that can cause damage to a single nerve. The damage often results in a tingling or burning sensation in the affected part of your body. There are several types of mononeuropathy, including carpal tunnel, ulnar nerve palsy, and sciatica.
  • Multiple sclerosis is a disease that affects the CNS. Researchers believe that it causes your body’s immune system to attack myelin, which is an insulating coating around nerve cells. Once myelin erodes, communication between nerve cells in the CNS is disrupted. When this happens, some parts of your body do not receive instructions from your brain. This results in a variety of symptoms, including burning pain and spasms.
  • Neuralgia is burning and stabbing pain that occurs along a damaged or irritated nerve. The affected nerve may be anywhere in your body, but it is most often in your face or neck.
  • Peripheral neuropathy is a disorder that develops when a peripheral nerve is damaged, affecting its ability to function correctly. It may trigger a burning sensation. When at least two nerves or areas are affected, as can happen in Hansen’s disease (leprosy), the condition is called mononeuritis multiplex.
  • Radiculopathy, also referred to as a pinched nerve in the spine, can be a natural part of aging. It occurs when surrounding bones, cartilage, or muscle deteriorate over time. The condition may also be triggered by injury or trauma to your spine. Radiculopathy causes burning pain in some cases, but not all.

Accidents, injuries, and traumas are other possible causes of burning sensations:

  • Frostbite occurs when your skin and the tissue under it freeze. Before numbness sets in, frostbite produces a burning sensation.
  • Stings and bites from insects or animals that are venomous, such as snakes, produce a burning sensation at the affected area.
  • Whiplash is an injury that occurs when your head moves back and forth very suddenly with great force. The injury is most common after a car accident. Whiplash can cause burning pain and stiffness in your neck.

Certain nutritional deficiencies can also include burning pain as a symptom:

  • Beriberi is a deficiency in thiamine, or vitamin B1.
  • Hypoparathyroidism is a rare disease characterized by an underproduction of the parathyroid hormone, a hormone produced by glands in your neck. Hypoparathyroidism can lead to a calcium deficiency.
  • Megaloblastic anemia may be related to a vitamin B12 or folic acid deficiency.
  • Pernicious anemia causes a vitamin B12 deficiency.

There are other potential causes of a burning sensation in different parts of your body:

  • Canker sores are mouth ulcers or sores caused by a virus. They are usually very painful.
  • Gastroesophageal reflux disease is chronic acid reflux, which occurs when stomach contents flow back up into your esophagus. The condition can cause a burning sensation in your esophagus, chest, or stomach.
  • Herpes simplex is a contagious viral infection that causes painful, tingling sores on various parts of your body, most commonly on your genitals or mouth.
  • Peripheral vascular disease is a blood circulation disorder that affects veins and arteries outside of your heart and brain. It often causes burning pain that gets worse when walking.
  • Rosacea is a skin condition that produces pus-filled bumps on various areas of your body. The affected areas can sometimes feel hot.
  • Shingles, also known as herpes zoster, occurs in people who previously had the chickenpox virus. It usually appears as a burning, painful rash on one side of your body.

Many different conditions can cause a burning sensation. Here is a list of 20 possible causes.


Images of sores and rashes ahead.

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Herpes simplex

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Herpes simplex virus on the lip. LPETTET/Getty Images

The herpes viruses HSV-1 and HSV-2 cause oral and genital lesions.

Blisters may reoccur in response to stress, menstruation, illness, or sun exposure.

These painful blisters can occur alone or in clusters. They can also produce clear, yellow fluid, and then crust over.

Signs may also include mild, flu-like symptoms, such as:

  • fever
  • fatigue
  • swollen lymph nodes
  • headache
  • body aches
  • decreased appetite

Canker sore

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Canker sore on the inside of the lip. Piyawat Nandeenopparit/Shutterstock

Canker sores are also called aphthous stomatitis or aphthous ulcers. They are small, painful, oval-shaped ulcers on the inside of your mouth that appear red, white, or yellow in color.

They are usually harmless and heal on their own in a couple of weeks.

Recurrent ulcers may be a sign of other conditions, such as:


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Rosacea can appear as facial redness. Blood vessels may be visible. Lipowski/Istock

Rosacea is a chronic skin disease that goes through cycles of fading and relapse. Relapses may be triggered by:

There are four subtypes of rosacea that have a wide variety of symptoms. Common symptoms can include:

  • facial flushing in lighter skin or dusky brown discoloration in darker skin
  • raised bumps or acne-like breakouts
  • skin dryness
  • skin burning or sensitivity

Peripheral vascular disease

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Foot ulceration caused by peripheral vascular disease. Photography by Jonathan Moore.

Peripheral vascular disease is a blood circulation disorder. It causes the blood vessels outside of your heart and brain to narrow, block, or spasm.

Symptoms may be caused by arteriosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) or by blood vessel spasms.

It typically causes pain and fatigue in your legs that worsen with exercise and get better with rest.

Peripheral neuropathy

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A nerve test can help diagnose peripheral neuropathy. BanksPhotos/Istock

Peripheral neuropathy occurs when the nerves outside of your spinal cord malfunction because they’re damaged or destroyed. It’s caused by many different infections, diseases, injuries, and some medications.

Diabetes is also a major cause of peripheral neuropathy.

Symptoms can include:

  • tingling in your hands or feet
  • sharp, stabbing pains
  • numbness
  • weakness
  • sexual dysfunction
  • bladder problems

Gastroesophageal reflux disease

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GERD can cause a burning sensation in the chest. dragana991/Getty Images

Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) occurs when stomach acid and other stomach contents back up into your esophagus through the lower esophageal sphincter.

Common symptoms can include:

Symptoms may worsen when lying down, bending over, or after eating spicy, fatty, or large meals.


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Shingles can appear as a red, brown, or purple rash, depending on the color of your skin. Anukool Manoton/Shuttestock

Shingles typically causes a very painful rash that may burn, tingle, or itch, even if there are no blisters present.

The rash may contain clusters of fluid-filled blisters that break easily and leak fluid.

The rash typically emerges in a linear stripe pattern that appears most commonly on your torso. But it may occur on other parts of your body, including your face.

The shingles rash may be accompanied by:

  • low fever
  • chills
  • headache
  • fatigue

Pernicious anemia

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Anemia caused by vitamin B12 deficiency may cause mouth ulcers. Tuan_Azizi/Shutterstock

Pernicious anemia is caused by an inability to absorb vitamin B12, which you need for your body to make enough healthy red blood cells.

Symptoms can include:

  • weakness
  • headaches
  • chest pain
  • weight loss

Rare neurological symptoms can include:

  • wobbly gait, or walking
  • memory loss
  • spasticity, or muscle tightness
  • peripheral neuropathy

Cervical spondylosis

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Cervical spondylosis may cause neck pain and stiffness. Getty Images/FG Trade

Cervical spondylosis is a common, age-related condition that affects the joints and discs in your neck. Over time, the vertebral discs, joints, and bones of your cervical spine weaken from regular wear and tear on cartilage and bones.

It may cause mild to severe chronic pain and stiffness in your neck.


Mononeuropathy is a condition in which only a single nerve or nerve group is damaged. Injuries, including accidents, falls, or repetitive motion stress, are the most common causes.

There are several forms of mononeuropathy, which vary in seriousness, rarity, and symptoms.

Common symptoms of mononeuropathy can include:

  • loss of sensation
  • tingling or burning
  • lack of coordination
  • weakness
  • muscle wasting, or when your muscle mass decreases
  • pain

Carpel tunnel syndrome is an example of mononeuropathy.

Carpal tunnel

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Repetitive hand motions, such as typing, can worsen carpal tunnel. apomares/Getty Images

Carpal tunnel is caused by pinching and squeezing of the median nerve as it passes through your wrist into your hand.

Symptoms can include:

  • numbness
  • tingling
  • pain in your thumb and the first three fingers of your hand

It can also lead to weakness in the muscles of your hand.

Symptoms usually worsen with activities that involve bending your wrist, such as:

  • typing
  • using tools
  • driving
  • holding a phone

Mononeuritis multiplex

Mononeuritis multiplex is a condition caused by damage to the nerves that lie outside your spinal cord.

It has many possible causes, including autoimmune, systemic, and infectious diseases.

Symptoms can include:

  • weakness or paralysis
  • numbness
  • tingling or “electric or shooting” pain in one or more areas of your body


Symptoms of neuralgia are caused by irritated or damaged nerves. It can feel like a tingling, stabbing, burning, or severe pain that may occur anywhere on your body.

It’s caused by many different conditions and infections, which can include:

  • shingles
  • diabetes
  • multiple sclerosis
  • nerve compression
  • medication side effects
  • trauma
  • kidney disease

Multiple sclerosis

Multiple sclerosis is a progressive autoimmune disease that affects the protective coverings of nerve cells.

It has unpredictable symptoms that can vary in intensity and duration. Symptoms can include:

It can also cause:

  • bladder issues
  • dizziness
  • sexual dysfunction
  • cognitive problems

Central pain syndrome

Central pain syndrome is caused by damage to the CNS. Sensations of pain come directly from your brain or spinal cord and not from the peripheral nerves.

Symptoms can vary significantly in intensity, character, location, and timing.

The pain may be made worse by:

  • touch
  • emotional stress
  • movement
  • temperature changes
  • loud noises
  • bright light
  • sun exposure


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Sciatica causes pain in the lower back and leg. Elisaveta Ivanova/Getty Imagess

Sciatica typically results from an injury to or irritation of the sciatic nerve and causes moderate to severe lower back and leg pain.

Signs and symptoms can include:

  • a sharp or tingling pain from your lower back through your buttock area and into your lower limbs
  • numbness or weakness in your legs or feet
  • a “pins and needles” sensation in your feet
  • bladder or bowel incontinence, which may be a sign of a medical emergency called cauda equina syndrome

Herniated disc

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A herniated disc can cause burning pain or numbness. sunlight19/Shutterstock

Discs sit between each vertebra and provide shock absorption and cushioning for your spine. Disc herniation occurs when the soft, gelatinous disc interior protrudes out of a disc’s rubbery, tough external ring.

Symptoms can include:

  • pain and numbness, most commonly on one side of your body and down one arm or leg
  • tingling, aching, or burning sensations in the affected area
  • unexplained muscle weakness

Depending on where the herniated disc is, it may also cause sciatica pain.


Radiculopathy is caused by a pinched nerve in your spine.

Symptoms may affect different areas of your back, arms, or legs, depending on which nerve is compressed.

Symptoms can include:

  • a sharp pain that may worsen with certain movements
  • shooting pain
  • numbness
  • weakness
  • tingling
  • loss of reflexes


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Frostbite can develop from prolonged exposure to cold. Sapp, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Medical emergency

Frostbite is considered a medical emergency. Urgent care may be required.

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Frostbite is caused by extreme cold damage to a body part. Common locations for frostbite can include:

  • fingers
  • toes
  • nose
  • ears
  • cheeks
  • chin

Symptoms can include:

  • numb, prickly skin
  • discolored skin
  • skin that feels waxy or hard

Severe frostbite symptoms can include:

  • skin that looks white, blue, or black
  • complete loss of sensation
  • fluid- or blood-filled blisters

Bites and stings

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A bite from an infected deer tick can cause Lyme disease. CDC/ James Gathany, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Medical emergency

Some bites and stings are considered a medical emergency. Urgent care may be required.

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Bug bites and stings can cause symptoms that include:

  • redness or swelling at the site of the bite or sting
  • itching and soreness at the site of the bite
  • pain in the affected area or in your muscles
  • heat around the bite or sting

Some bites from certain species of snake, spider, and tick can be severe or life threatening.

Schedule an appointment with a doctor if you experience a persistent burning sensation. During your appointment, the doctor will perform a physical examination and ask about your pain. Be prepared to answer questions that may include:

  • the location of the pain
  • the severity of the pain
  • when the pain began
  • how often you experience the pain
  • any other symptoms you may have

The doctor may also order certain tests to try to identify the underlying cause of your burning pain. These diagnostic tests may include:

  • blood or urine tests to check for nutritional deficiencies and other conditions
  • imaging tests, such as X-rays and CT scans, to examine bones and muscles in your spine
  • electromyography (EMG) to assess the health of nerves and muscles
  • nerve conduction velocity test to determine how quickly electrical signals move through a particular peripheral nerve
  • nerve biopsy to check for nerve damage in a particular part of your body
  • skin biopsy to examine a small sample of the affected skin under a microscope for the presence of atypical cells

Treatment for a burning sensation depends on the underlying cause. If the doctor finds an underlying health condition, they may treat that particular condition first. Your course of treatment will vary depending on the problem. Treatment may include:

  • medications
  • surgery
  • physical therapy
  • dietary changes
  • weight loss

You can manage the burning pain with anti-inflammatory medications, prescription painkillers, or over-the-counter pain relievers. You can also ask the doctor about certain home remedies that may help treat your condition.

Many conditions that cause a burning sensation have no cure, but treatments can make a big difference in reducing the pain and any other symptoms.

You should contact a doctor so you can receive a diagnosis and treatment for the problem that may be causing your burning sensation. Make sure you stick with your treatment plan and attend any necessary follow-up appointments.