How To Tell the Difference Between Muscle Pain and Nerve Pain

December 26, 2018

A man's back is in pain
Managing back pain is important for your health. Knowing whether you are experie

Knowing whether you are experiencing muscle pain or nerve pain can be the first step in finding relief.

Kyleigh Roessner RN-BSN

If you are in pain, the one thing that you want most is relief. Not surprisingly, it is usually beneficial to understand the root cause of your pain. Knowing whether you are experiencing either muscle pain or nerve pain can be the first step in finding relief.

Causes of Muscle vs. Nerve Pain

According to the Cleveland Clinic, musculoskeletal pain is primarily caused by injuries, like car accidents, falls or direct blows to the muscle. It can also be caused by overuse of the muscles and improper alignment or posture.

Nerve pain, or neuralgia, can be caused by chronic diseases like diabetes, chronic kidney disease or infections like herpes zoster (shingles) or Lyme disease. Trauma can also cause neuralgia, as well as pressure from other parts of the body. These can all result in pain in the nerves.

Different Types of Pain

We all experience pain differently, but in general, people describe muscle pain as an aching or stiffness. The pain is typically localized in the muscle itself, and it usually hurts when you use the muscle. You feel fatigued and may have trouble sleeping.

Nerve pain is described as crushing, burning, tingling or numbness. It is sharp and you may feel pain on the skin above the nerves as well.

Alleviating Your Muscle Pain

Always consult your personal physician if you are concerned about any pain that you may be having. They can best help you identify and properly treat your symptoms. However, the Cleveland Clinic offers some strategies that you may want to take to relieve your musculoskeletal pain. These include:

  1. Applying heat or cold packs
  2. Resting the muscle
  3. Getting a therapeutic massage
  4. Physical therapy
  5. Acupuncture
  6. Stretching exercises
  7. Anti-inflammatory medications
  8. Visiting a chiropractor

When managing back pain or other types of muscle pain, it's important to prevent more serious injury by changing the factors that caused your pain to begin with. Maintain proper posture by using a sit-to-stand desk, use proper lift techniques and safety gear, and continue to strengthen your muscles to provide additional support. Be sure to follow your treatment plan carefully and communicate with your physician if you need more help.

Relieving Nerve Pain

After consulting with your doctor, they may prescribe any of the following medical treatments according to the National Institutes of Health:

  1. Oral medications
  2. Skin patches
  3. Injections
  4. Physical therapy
  5. Surgery to reduce the pressure on the nerve that is causing the pain
  6. Ablation therapy to destroy the nerve causing the pain
  7. A spinal cord stimulator type device
  8. Acupuncture or biofeedback

Your treatment will depend on your condition, how much the pain affects your life and your other health factors. Of course, maintaining your best state of health can help you in managing your back pain or other nerve pain successfully.

Whether you have muscle pain or nerve pain, you don't need to suffer needlessly. Speak with your physician about different ways to successfully control your pain so you can get back to living your best life.

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