Muscle Pain VS Nerve Pain

by AZ Pain Doctors, on Jan 20, 2022 11:23:00 AM

Did you know that upwards of 20 million people suffer from nerve pain? Most people don't know the differences between muscle pain vs nerve pain. Many times this leads to chronic issues or undetermined causes. 

Nerve pain is something that often has an unidentifiable cause. Knowing the differences between them helps aid in pain management and improving your quality of life. 

Keep reading on to better understand the differences between muscle and nerve pain.

Muscle Pain

Muscle pain is often interchangeable with muscle soreness. Depending on how severe your pain is, you might classify it one way or the other. 

In general - this type of pain is caused by injury to one or more muscle groups. Injuries is a very loose term because many people often can't recall a specific scenario where they injured themselves.

If you are an athlete, it is typically much easier to see what caused the injury. However, for the majority of the population, it is often more subtle. 

Some causes of muscle aches and pain are: 

  • Stress
  • Muscle tension
  • Overuse of muscle groups
  • Injury during an activity or sport

Having too much muscle tension in one area leads to problems in another area. For example, tight hamstrings often lead to low back pain - this is because the hamstring muscle groups attach to your pelvis. Additionally, many causes of low back pain aren't necessarily from injuring your low back - although that is one of the reasons.

Sometimes poor posture, collapsed arches in your feet, and hip problems lead to back problems. There is also a whole other world that creates muscle pain. These are classified under more complex medical diagnoses. 

Some medical problems that lead to discomfort in your muscles are: 

  • Fibromyalgia
  • Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
  • Lupus
  • Medication abuse
  • Infections

When To See a Doctor

When should you see someone about muscle aches? For one, if your pain is debilitating and not going away with rest and proper exercise, then you should see a doctor. 

Also, if you have pain with indicators of a rash or bite, then you should seek out a physician's opinion. More severe instances that accompany muscle pain are fever, vomiting, severe stiffness, and water retention.

With these sudden changes, it is best to get checked out by a professional to make sure nothing more serious than a simple muscle strain is going on. If you are on medication and notice increasing pain, talk to your physician about prescribing something different.

Nerve Pain

When talking about types of pain, nerve pain often gets mistaken for muscle aches. Damage to nerves leads to this type of pain; however, it is a bit more complex than a muscle strain. 

To start, there are two different types of nerves in your body - these are classified as the central nervous system and peripheral nervous system. In your central nervous system, you have the nerves in your brain and spinal cord.

The peripheral nerves have two components that work on sending motor and sensory signals from your brain and spinal cord to your extremities. Any of these different parts can be injured. An extreme example is in the case of a spinal cord injury. 

With this type of injury, the nerves in the spine are either fully or partially severed. During partial spinal cord injuries, the patient often deals with significant nerve pain. 


A lot of nerves in your brain and spinal cord help send signals that manage your heart rate, body temperature, bladder, and blood pressure. Many spinal cord patients suffer from difficulties managing a lot of these automatic controls. 

When your peripheral nerves are damaged, it leads to more common symptoms in the population. Some of these include:

  • Tingling
  • Burning sensation
  • Heightened sensitivity
  • Weakness
  • Muscle twitching

A common diagnosis that leads to nerve pain is diabetes. Some studies estimate that almost three-quarters of people with diabetes will have nerve pain. 

Usually, the peripheral nerves are first damaged in people with diabetes that leads to decreased sensation or a burning feeling in the feet. With less sensation, these people are more at risk of having injuries to their feet without noticing it. 

There are many other medical diagnoses with this type of pain including: 

  • Multiple Sclerosis
  • Cancer
  • ALS
  • Lyme Disease
  • Infections

Muscle Pain vs Nerve Pain Treatment

Recognizing what type of pain you have is the first step. You briefly read about when to seek medical attention with muscle pain, but what are other treatments?

For muscles, it is best if you rest the muscle group and then ease back into activities and exercise. For an injured extremity, many sports and athletic trainers suggest the acronym R.I.C.E. This stands for rest, ice, compression, and elevation. 

If you still aren't seeing relief, then seek out a qualified physician who deals with chronic and acute pain.

Nerve pain is addressed through a couple of different methods. It is typically advised to see a physician before starting a regimen to determine the cause of nerve pain.

Otherwise, some typical treatments include medication, injections, physical therapy, surgery, and acupuncture. Different surgical treatments focus on alleviating pressure from the nerve, or nerve ablation. During this minimally invasive procedure, some of the nerves are removed.

The goal behind this procedure is that reduces the painful stimuli that are sent to the brain.  

Seek Help Today

Dealing with pain is debilitating. It leads to missed work, hobbies, and time spent with loved ones. It also impairs quality of life and has the potential to cause other mental health illnesses such as depression.

Knowing the difference between muscle pain vs nerve pain is helpful to recovery. 

Don't wait any longer to address your pain. Contact us for a consultation and rest assured that you are in qualified hands to manage your pain once and for all. 

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