Is it nerve or muscle pain? Whats the difference!

assessing shoulder pain

Nerve pain or muscle pain? Whatever it is, its is certainly painful. Here’s how you can tell the difference!

Features of Nerve Pain:

Nerves are like electrical wires that communicate by connecting the brain and body to each other (1).

So when a nerve is damaged or compressed it result in pain that  may feel like; 

  1. burning
  2. tingling
  3. numb
  4. electric-like (1,2).

Nerve pain is most commonly felt in the limbs (2) but may originate from closer to the spine (4).

You may also experience this type of pain worse at night due to lower blood pressure and less blood flow to the affected nerve tissues (4).

Features of Muscular Pain:

Muscular pain is often caused by a specific injury (1,2) where once the injury heals, the pain will subside (1).

This is different to nerve pain as it can be chronic (1,2) and is often not relieved via the use of general pain medication (1).

Muscle pain is described as;  tight, sore and/or achy (1). 

Patients will complain of pain in a specific spot within a muscle (2) and often feel like they have less range of movement. Have trouble moving your neck? Sitting to stand? or maybe typing your shoes? That sounds more like muscular pain to us!  

How to Relieve Your Pain

Initially, muscular pain can be helped by; applying heat/ice packs, stretching, foam rolling and taking anti-inflammatory medications (3,4). 

Your Osteopath can assist your recovery through targeted soft tissue massage, mobilising surrounding joints and stretching of the affected areas using specific techniques.

Nerve pain on the other hand is generally not as straight forward and depends on the cause of your pain. Usually this builds up over time meaning it can be a gradual process for nerve pain to subside. To assist your Osteopath would create a comprehensive management/rehab plan to help ease the pain over a period of time.

Need help with if you are suffering from any muscular or nerve pain? Book online with one of our experienced team members today. 


  1. Understanding The Difference Between Nerve Pain and Muscle Pain [Internet]. Preferred Pain Management & Spine Care. 2017 [cited 18 September 2020]. Available from: https://preferredpainmanagement.com/understanding-difference-nerve-pain-muscle-pain/
  2. Bussell M. Nerve Pain vs. Muscle Pain — Is there a Difference? | Neuropathic Therapy Center [Internet]. Loma Linda University Health. 2020 [cited 18 September 2020]. Available from: https://ntc.lluh.org/blog/nerve-pain-vs-muscle-pain-there-difference
  3. Roessner K. How To Tell the Difference Between Muscle Pain and Nerve Pain [Internet]. Flexispot. 2018 [cited 18 September 2020]. Available from: https://www.flexispot.com/spine-care-center/how-to-tell-the-difference-between-muscle-pain-and-nerve-pain/
  4. Poolan M. Muscle Pain vs Nerve Pain – Understanding the Difference | Advice | MSK Sports Injury Clinic [Internet]. MSK Sports Injury Clinic. 2020 [cited 18 September 2020]. Available from: https://msksportsinjuryclinic.co.uk/blog/muscle-pain-vs-nerve-pain/