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[New York Pain Management] How to Tell if Your Symptom is from Nerve Pain or a Muscle Pain

Updated: Jun 26

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If you've ever had a muscle ache or pain caused by overworking the muscle, then you probably know how it feels. The pain can come in waves, and when you get it, it can be debilitating. However, if the aching is constant, then this could be a symptom of a problem you should be addressing and getting it checked out by a New York pain management specialist right away.

There are some differences between muscle pain and nerve pain. Nerves are responsible for sending an electrical signal from your brain throughout the rest of your body and can determine how you feel (because everything is wired together). If those nerves aren't functioning properly, then this can result in your muscles feeling like they're on fire. We're going to take a look at these differences so that you know what's causing your pain and be able to receive the treatment you need.


Muscle pain is usually felt as a dull ache or cramp in the affected area. It can also cause weakness and lack of coordination, but these symptoms are more common when there's trauma to the muscle tissue rather than simply overuse or injury. In addition, muscle pain doesn't usually affect sensory responses like nerve pain does — for example, if you have a headache, it won't make your fingers feel numb.

If you have a loss of sensation around the area of pain or if touching that area causes you to feel sensations that are not normal. For example, if you touch your shoulder and feel numbness or tingling in your arm, it could be a sign of nerve damage. Nerve pain is usually more intense than muscle pain. The sharpness of the pain may be worse when you first move an affected limb or when you start exercising. It may also be worse at night or when you're under stress.

Nerve pain often feels like a burning sensation radiating from the center of your body toward the outside edges of your body. If your symptoms are affecting your activities, seek help from a pain specialist as soon as possible to avoid further damage or injury.

Location of the Pain

Woman with nerve pain

If you have symptoms that could be either nerve pain or muscle pain, it's important to get an accurate diagnosis from a NYC pain specialist as soon as possible. Nerve damage can cause problems with your ability to walk or use your hands and arms normally. Muscle damage can lead to muscle wasting and weakness if left untreated.

If you have nerve pain, you will experience a tingling sensation in your hands or feet. This is caused by damaged nerves that send abnormal signals to your brain. This is also known as neuropathy, which can be caused by diabetes or other conditions. Nerve pain typically affects one or two areas on one side of your body, usually in the hands and feet.

If you have muscle pain, it will be located in the affected area of your body. Muscle pain is often described as a dull ache that does not go away with rest or sleep. Muscle pain tends to be more generalized and spreads out from a specific location, though it tends to remain in one spot most often throughout its duration. It may feel like it moves from one part of your body to another over time, depending on how active you are during the day. If you have widespread muscle aches and pains, it's likely that you're dealing with common musculoskeletal disorders, like fibromyalgia or myofascial pain syndrome.

Cause of the Pain

The difference between nerve pain and muscle pain is that nerve pain comes from an injury or irritation of a nerve, while muscle pain occurs when there is a problem with the structure or function of a muscle. Nerves carry messages from the brain to the rest of the body, while muscles move and contract in order to perform tasks such as walking and lifting objects.

Muscle pain occurs when muscles are damaged from overuse or strain during exercise or work activities. Muscles contract and tighten due to heavy lifting, strenuous activity, or injury, which causes inflammation and swelling around the sore spot, making it more difficult for blood flow to reach into the sore area, causing further inflammation.

Nerve pain is caused by irritation or compression of a single nerve or a group of nerves in the body. This type of pain is often described as sharp or tingling sensations that can vary in intensity. Nerve damage can occur from an injury, disease, or age-related degeneration and may cause numbness, weakness, or loss of function in certain parts of your body. For example, if the pain is in your leg or foot, it could be sciatica or a pinched nerve in your lower spine. It is important to visit a health professional if you think you may have nerve pain because it can be a sign of more serious medical issues.

Nerve and Muscle Pains Have Some Similarities

It's possible to have both types of pain if there is damage to both nerves and muscles at the same time. For example, if you fall off a bicycle and hit your elbow on the ground, this could damage both nerves (in your elbow) and muscles (on your forearm).

Here are some examples of their similarities:

Painful arms
  • Both can occur suddenly.

  • Both can cause pain and are often worse when you try to move a certain way.

  • Both can affect more than one part of your body at once (for example, your arm and leg on one side).

  • Both can cause swelling or redness in affected areas.

  • Both can cause tingling — although this is more common with nerves than with muscles.

  • Both may wake you up from sleep or prevent you from sleeping well at all.

The difference between these two types of pain isn't always obvious. Sometimes it's hard to tell whether your pain comes from a muscle or from a nerve. That's because there may be overlaps between the symptoms of these two problems — especially if you have both kinds of issues at once. You may need help from a pain doctor or physical therapist to figure out which one you have so that you can get the right treatment plan for your condition.

Accurate Diagnosis is Important

Nerve pain and muscle pain can have similarities and can occur at the same time, but that doesn't mean that they're the same. In fact, they're two different issues with two different sets of treatment options. Identifying your pain can be frustrating, but it's a step in the right direction to ensure the best treatment possible.

If you're experiencing symptoms, book an appointment to talk with a specialist today. A New York pain management specialist will be able to help you figure out what the cause of your problem is and what treatment would be the best for you. We hope the information in this article was helpful and provided some more insight into nerve and muscle pains. While more information and a more in-depth physical exam will be needed to pinpoint the source of your pain, you'll nevertheless be on the right track as you start on that path toward recovery.


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