Nerve Pain in your arm.. Where's it coming from?

November 7, 2023
5 min read

When you experience nerve pain in your upper limb, understanding the nature of the pain is crucial for finding the right solution. Two common terms you might come across are "radicular pain" and "neural tension." Let's simplify these concepts using everyday analogies and explore how movement therapy can help you find relief.

Radicular Pain: Nerve Traffic Jam

Think of radicular nerve pain as a traffic jam on a nerve highway. Imagine your spinal nerves as the roads in a city. Radicular pain is like a traffic jam on these nerve highways, caused by something blocking the road, such as a herniated disc. This leads to pain, tingling, or weakness in your upper limb. The pain follows a specific path, just like traffic congestion on a particular road.

Symptoms of Radicular Nerve Pain in the Upper Limb:

  1. Shooting or burning pain that follows a specific road.
  2. Numbness or tingling in one area of your upper limb.
  3. Weakness and an absence of reflexes, like cars moving slowly in a traffic jam.

To alleviate this nerve traffic jam, movement therapy acts like traffic engineers, working to remove the obstacles and improve the flow of traffic (nerve signals). You'll perform exercises to strengthen the supporting structures of your spine and help the nerves regain their normal function.

Neural Tension: Stretching Nerves

Now, picture your nerves as stretchy rubber bands. Neural tension occurs when these "nerve rubber bands" get stretched too far. It can happen due to repetitive movements, similar to how you stretch and pull a rubber band, leading to pain, tingling, or muscle tightness in your upper limb.

Symptoms of Neural Tension (Nerve Pain) in the Upper Limb:

  1. Burning or electric-like pain that can occur in different areas.
  2. Numbness or tingling that moves around.
  3. Limited range of motion, like a stretched rubber band.

Movement therapy for neural tension is akin to doing exercises that gently release the tension in these "nerve rubber bands." You'll engage in stretches and techniques to make your nerves more flexible and relaxed whilst also addressing the root cause of why the nerves were tensioned in the first place.

Distinguishing and Managing Nerve Pain

To manage your upper limb nerve pain, it's vital to recognise if it's like a nerve traffic jam (radicular nerve pain) or stretched "nerve rubber bands" (neural tension). Both can cause upper limb pain, but the causes are different.

For radicular nerve pain, movement therapy may includes exercises to:

  1. Strengthen the structures that support your spinal nerves.
  2. Improve your posture and spine alignment.
  3. Reduce the obstructions on the nerve highways.

For neural tension (nerve pain), movement therapy involves:

  1. Stretching exercises to increase nerve flexibility.
  2. Techniques to release tension and enhance nerve function.
  3. Learning how to maintain good posture and prevent future issues.

In both cases, the aim is to reduce nerve pain and improve the function of your upper limb. Just like solving puzzles, knowing which type of nerve pain you're experiencing is the first step in finding the right solution.


Upper limb nerve pain can be challenging, but understanding the difference between radicular nerve pain and neural tension is like knowing the nature of the puzzle you're solving. Movement therapy is your tool to address these nerve pain puzzles and find relief. By recognizing the type of nerve pain you have and tailoring your therapy, you're on your way to a more active and pain-free life. Don't let upper limb nerve pain hold you back—take control with simple knowledge and movement therapy.

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