Muscle Pain vs Nerve Pain


It’s a part of the human condition. Let’s face it, if you’re alive, you’ve felt pain at one point or another. Worse, yet, is when you go to see someone for your pain, and you have to pay for hundreds of tests because your doctor always wants to rule out the worst case scenario.

When it comes to pain, many doctors focus on nerves because nerve pain is a serious condition that can herald a number of diseases and problems. But often overlooked is muscle or soft tissue pain. This can lead to “getting the runaround” with your healthcare professionals.

Muscle Pain vs Nerve Pain

Determining the Difference

When you hurt, it’s natural to want to know why. Many questions run through our minds like:

  • What is causing my pain?
  • Is it a nerve or a muscle?
  • Am I going to need surgery?

And most importantly:

  • What kind of doctor/specialist do I need to see to fix it?

These are all very important questions to ask yourself whenever you feel pain. Many people automatically assume that whatever pain you are feeling is caused by a “pinched nerve”. But this isn’t always the case, and knowing the difference between muscle pain and nerve pain can determine what kind of doctor or specialist you need to see in order to be assessed, diagnosed, and treated quickly and efficiently.

Nerve Pain

When people experience nerve pain, they often describe it as:

  • Stabbing 
  • Burning
  • Tingling or Pins-and-needles (like when your foot falls asleep)
  • Crawling
  • and like Electrical Shocks

Nerve pain is usually very sensitive; even the lightest touches can set it off. Nerve pain can be caused by Diabetes, cancer, autoimmune disorders, HIV, trauma, and compression/entrapment of nerve roots. Ofttimes, nerve pain is worse at night (which prevents sleep) and changing body position does nothing to alleviate the symptoms.


Muscle Pain

Muscle Pain is commonly described as:

  • Achy
  • Swelling
  • Tender
  • Cramping
  • or Stiffness

Muscles can also cause what is known as “Referred Pain” where the actual source of the pain is in a different location than where it is perceived. This is especially common in trigger points. In my blog post about Thoracic Outlet Syndrome, I explained how the muscles–when fatigued and chronically tight–could actually cause pain and tingling that traveled along the nerve paths.

The thing to remember about muscle pain is that it can often be alleviated by changing your body’s position and doing stretches. By doing so, your muscles are shifted into a “position of ease” and the strain is taken off of them. This is because muscle pain is often a warning signal that you’ve either been injured, or you’re going to injure something if you continue what is causing the pain.

Treating muscle pain usually involves manual manipulation.

Treating muscle pain usually involves manual manipulation–whether through massage or chiropractic work.

By determining the differences between Muscle pain vs Nerve pain, it becomes  easier to figure out what kind of specialist you need to see. In the case of nerve pain, you should always consult your doctor or neurologist, so that they can recommend the needed treatment. If you’re suffering from muscle pain, your massage therapist is an excellent choice for treatment. Always look for a licensed therapist that has gone through the necessary training to meet the guidelines set by your state. Massage therapists that specialize in therapeutic work or “medical massage” are excellent choices, but that doesn’t mean you can’t find a qualified therapist in your local spa. Always call a new therapist to see what kind of work they specialize in to determine if they’re a proper fit for you.


If you’re suffering from muscle pain (or even if you’re unsure), call me at (740) 541-3985 for a free consultation. You can also book online from my website, here:


ust give me an hour to help ease your pain. All massages include a hands-on assessment to determine the best treatment for you!


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