In the present study we investigated the probability, latency and duration of the inhibitory component of the withdrawal reflex elicited by painful electrical stimulation of the index finger in humans. The stimulus consisted of a train of high-intensity pulses. The investigation was carried out in several upper limb muscles during isometric contractions of different strengths and during a motor sequence consisting of reaching, picking up and transporting an object. We used a new algorithm to detect and characterize the inhibitory reflex. The reflex was found in all muscles except the brachioradialis at all the isometric contraction strengths, and showed a distal-to-proximal gradient of latency and duration. Conversely, during movement the reflex probability was high (> 80%) in the anterior deltoid and triceps muscles during reaching, in the extensor carpi radialis muscle during transporting of the object, and in the first interosseous muscle during both picking up and transporting of the object. This modulation of inhibitory reflex transmission in the upper limb muscles suggests that the motor response is organized in such a way as to inhibit the overall ongoing motor task by interrupting motion during reaching and by releasing the object during transporting. This pattern of modulation appears to differ markedly from that previously reported for the excitatory component of the withdrawal reflex. Study of the nociceptive inhibitory reflexes during movement offers new and more profound insights into the functional anatomical organization of the spinal interneuronal network mediating sensory–motor integration.