Home > Underarm Pain > Sharp, Dull or Stabbing Armpit Pain Causes and Relief Ways

Sharp, Dull or Stabbing Armpit Pain Causes and Relief Ways

Pain in armpit have several possible causes. Some of the potential armpit pain causes could be enlarged lymph nodes in armpit, pinched nerve, cancer, swollen armpit among other causes. In addition, general underarm pain can also be due disorders of structures close to the armpit.

When you have underarm pain, you deserve to know some of the causes will require medical intervention while others may just resolve of their own. However, do not ignore armpit pain that has lasted for more than two days yet you do not know the cause.

Here is detailed information on pain underarm causes, symptoms and diagnosis that will include sharp or stabbing pain, and pain in left and right armpit, armpit pain without lump, treatments and effective treatments and relieves.

Quick facts and meaning

According to Healcure.org, “Armpit pain refers to the aching, throbbing, stinging, twinging, and soreness, tenderness or general physical discomfort in and around your armpit or underarm area.”

This pain in the armpit could be present alongside some very painful lumps in your armpit or without any lumps.

In addition, this pain can be experienced by male and female, children and adults but some causes may be more specific to women or men.

On location, the pain could be on the right left or the right armpit and can extend to nearby parts such as chest, shoulder, breast and other parts.

Finally, it can be mild, chronic or sharp shooting depending on the causes. Let us now look at the common causes of pain in armpit.


There are many potential reasons as to why you may experience pain in the armpit. Therefore, in this section, we are going give you the most common triggers of ache and pain under armpit.

Pain in Armpit Causes, Symptoms, Sharp Left, No Lump, on Breast, Treatments and Relief
Pain in Armpit Causes

1. Armpit lymph node pain (Lymphadenitis)

Armpit pain due to swollen lymph nodes
Armpit pain due to swollen lymph nodes

Axillary lymph nodes pain or lymphadenitis is the inflammation, swelling or enlargement of the lymph nodes or glands. This condition takes place when your body responds to bacterial, fungal, or viral infections.

Such pain is usually experienced in area near the infected or inflamed site. This results to swollen lymph node that can lead to sharp shooting pain in armpit. “Other health conditions that may cause lymph node swelling include autoimmune disorder rheumatoid arthritis or even cancer.”[Medhealthdaily.com]

2. Hidradenitis suppurativa

Armpit pain with lumps due to hidradenitis suppurativa
Armpit pain with lumps due to hidradenitis suppurativa

One of the major cause of axillary pain with lump is inflamed or infected sweat glands and hair follicles. The pain can also be experienced in buttocks, groin or below the breast among other parts.

This occur when the skin pores are clogged with excess sebum and dead skin cells. This will lead to bacterial infection hence resulting to pimples and acne. Some deep types of acne such as nodules and cysts can cause severe pain when they occur in your armpit. Cyst is a large pimple that occurs alongside scarring and severe itching.

3. Muscle Strain

Pinching armpit pain due to muscle pinch or tear
Pinching armpit pain due to muscle pinch or tear

Have you ever experienced pain under armpit after picking something, certain sleeping positions or exercising without warming up first? Now this could be due to strained or pulled muscles.

The major muscles that commonly lead to this condition is the pectoralis in your chest. Remedies could involve the application cold and warm compresses, anti-inflammatory drugs among others, which we are going to discuss later in this article.

4. Breast cancer

Pain under the armpit could also be due to breast cancer, a common health condition among women. A woman suffering from breast cancer can suffer symptoms such as nipple discharges, changes in the size, shape and appearance of her breast, breast skin dimpling, and rash around the nipples.

Breast cancer can also occur alongside lymphoma a condition that also trigger pain under armpits. Related symptoms include swollen legs, neck and groin lymph nodes, abrupt weight loss, cough, fever, appetite loss, intense sweating, fatigue and more.

5. Peripheral artery disease

Due to some medical conditions, the arteries in your arms and legs (with exception to those arteries found in near heart and brain) may become narrower or obstructed. When this happens, there will be reduced blood flow in the concerned arteries. This can therefore result to a sharp, shooting pain underarm as well as on other parts.

6. Pregnancy and breastfeeding

Armpit pain due to pregnancy
Armpit pain due to pregnancy

Some women have also reported cases of experiencing pain in armpit during pregnancy and breastfeeding. During early pregnancies, women can develop armpit pain accompanied with breast tendering. This condition is normally associated with intense hormonal changes experienced during this period.

On the other side, armpit pain during breastfeeding can be experienced when a mother produce a lot of milk than she can expel. Other factors that can cause ache armpit during breastfeeding include wrong nursing bra, breast infections and bad breastfeeding positions.

7. Shingles (Herpes zoster)

Shingles on armpits can cause pain
Shingles on armpits can cause pain

Shingles otherwise known as Herpes zoster, are a very painful medical condition that can be experienced anywhere in your body but it is common on the left and the right side of the body stem. It begins when virus attack the nerves and hence results to painful rashes in the body. This condition develop close to you armpit, then you may experience a very thrilling armpit pain.

There are numerous shingle symptoms, which some can be mild while others may be severe. They include pain, burning sensation, red rash, fluid-filled blisters, fever and more.

8. Brachial plexus injuries

First, understand this, “The brachial plexus is a network of nerves located in the neck and shoulder, which also course through the armpit” [Livestrong.com]. Pressure, trauma or stretching can damage this network.

Sometimes when you force your head or neck away from the affected shoulder in the opposite direction, you can have traction (brachial plexus injury). This may force the nerves to detach from their roots in the neck. This will lead to pain underarm, numbness among other symptoms.

9. Shoulder Dislocation

Pain under the armpit can also be caused by a shoulder dislocation.  Your shoulder is the most susceptible part to dislocation since it has the most mobile joint. Shoulder locations means that the upper arm bone fully slips out of your shoulder socket.

Common signs and symptoms are numbness, weakness, swelling as well as bruising in the underarm.

10. Peripheral artery disease (PAD)

This is a condition where by small arteries in your arms and legs narrows leading less oxygenated blood to reach the muscles and limb tissues. This can lead to sharp pain your armpits. “Oxygen-starved muscles hurt” [Healthline.com]

1)      Skin conditions, armpit hair removal and allergic reactions

Skin conditions can as well lead to painful armpit. Furthermore, some activities like waxing or shaving underarm usually leads to irritations that can lead to lumps in the affected body areas.

In addition, some deodorants or laundry detergents can also trigger allergic reactions (contact dermatitis). Applications of some cosmetics can also lead to skin bumps. When all these factors occurs in your armpit, definitely you can experience some pain in your armpit.

More reasons

  • Connective tissue degeneration
  • Diabetes (caused by excess sugar in the blood)
  • Viral infections such as chicken pox, typhoid, AIDs, measles etc.
  • Common cold
  • Using of crutches (walking sticks)
  • Granular infections, bacterial infection caused by poor armpit hygiene, intense sweating or increased temperature.
  • Anxiety armpit pain
  • Acid reflux and heartburn
  • Hyperthyroidism
  • Sporotrichosis

 Symptoms and Diagnosis

Symptoms and signs of pain in armpit may be variant depending on the underlying causes. So below are some of the symptoms that can occur along with armpit pain:

  • Skin rashes
  • Changes in the appearance, size and shape of the breast
  • Swelling, itching, redness and itching
  • Shortness of breath
  • Dizziness, numbness, fatigue and nausea
  • Weight loss, heavy sweating, loss of appetite and cough
  • Fluid filled blisters around the armpit
  • Headache and fever

During armpit pain diagnosis, the doctor will inquire about the noticed symptoms. He/she will also examine your skin, ear and throat to define the potential cause. They may also need to carry out blood or extract biopsy tissue of lymph node if the pain is present with a lump.

Because there are many reason for pain in the armpit, it is always recommended to visit your doctor for proper diagnosis especially when your suffer symptoms of underarm pain that you feel may be serious.

On Left armpit

It is possible to experience pain in both armpits (bilateral underarm pain) but usually, people are very concerned to left armpit pain than right armpit pain. This is because your heart is located in the left side of your chest. This make them always take up that pain in left armpit is due to heart disorders. This can be very true but there can be also other causes i.e. those we had discussed before.

Many of the armpit pain symptoms and causes are similar to both left and right armpit but causes or rather symptoms such as shortness of breath, jaw pain, headache, toothache, sweating, heartburn, racing heart, upper neck pain, dizziness, anxiety and general malaise etc. can be due to heart problem.

Some symptoms like armpit pain during lifting objects or weights could be due to disorder of joints or muscles and not heart problems. You doctor can also help to determine whether your left armpit pain is due to heart problem or not.

Stabbing, shooting or sharp pain

In some cases, one may develop sudden sharp stabbing pain in armpit. Such pain resembles electric pulse and it can be throbbing! Such sharp shooting pain in armpit can occur in your right or left armpit and is a condition can be experienced in both male and female. It can then spread to your shoulder, down arm as well as other places. Below are the common causes of sharp shooting armpit pain:

  • Pinched nerve
  • Heartburn
  • Peripheral artery Disease
  • Cerebrovascular accident
  • Swollen armpit lymph node
  • Angina, chest pain and pregnancy

With or without lumps

Pain on armpit no lump
Pain on armpit no lump

Pain in armpit can be present with or without a lump. Armpit pains with no lump are usually sudden and may last for shorter time as compared to painful armpit with lump. Some underarm pain with no lump can also last for even a week for instance, those triggered by shoulder dislocation or breastfeeding.

Some other causes of armpit pain without a lump are pregnancy, peripheral artery diseases, Lymphadenitis, muscles strain, brachial plexus injury or heartburn among others.

On the other hand, pain in armpit with lumps may be due to viral, bacterial and fungal infections, Hidradenitis, cancer, allergies, waxing and shaving, and many more.

We should make these clear, underarm pain with lump can last for longer period; it can be severe and require medical attention.

I don’t tend to mean that all underarm pain with no lumps are mild, or do not last longer or is simple to treat. I just want you to get it clear that painful lumps may need a lot of oral and topical treatment than painful armpit without lump. There severity in the two situations will depend with the primary causes.

NOTE: it is also possible to have painless lump under armpit or painless armpit with lump

Pain under armpit and breast

Pain under armpit and breast
Pain under armpit and breast

We must acknowledge that breast pain and armpit pain are closely associated. Actually, an individual experiencing breast pain can have the pain extending to armpit or up to shoulder. Therefore, breast and underarm pain can be grouped as follows:

a)      Cyclic breast and armpit pain

Cyclic breast pain is due to menstrual hormonal cycles. It is characterized with burning, prickling or stabbing pain, tenderness or feeling of tightness. There may also be some limps lumps during few days before the period begins.

b)      Non-cyclic breast

Such pain in breast and armpit that can be constant or vanish after a short period. It is known to affect women before and after menopause. Common triggers include early pregnancy, large breast, certain medication, breastfeeding among other causes.

c)       Chest wall pain

This can be a result of musculoskeletal pain brought about by pulling of the chest muscles. Such pain can be sharp and extend to your breast, armpit and shoulder. Any pressure on your chest will trigger a pain in breast, underarm or shoulder.

Remedies and treatment

Remember that treatment options for pain in armpit will depend on the seriousness of the pain and the underlying causes. Some mild pain may just vanish of their own. At the same time, some pain may require simple medications such OTC treatment or home remedies. Some severe pain for instance those caused by serious shoulder dislocation may require doctor`s intervention. Below are some of the remedies used to soothe painful armpit:

a.      Medications

Armpit pains due to infections can be treated using anti-bacterial, antifungal and antiviral medications.

If caused by virus, the commonly used antivirals are acyclovir, Valtrex and famciclovir. Numbing medications can also be applied when there is severe pain.

When bacterial are the causative agents then, antibiotics can be used. If bacterial infections are related to acne, then acne-fighting agents can be used too.

In more serious or severe cases, surgery, chemotherapy and radiation may be administered especially in cases such as cancer.

b.      Proper hygiene

To make sure you prevent pain, infection and inflammation in your armpit, make sure you wash your underarm everyday using water. For sweaty armpit, you can use effective deodorants to manage such. Above all, always keep your armpit clean and dry and take regular bath

c.       Try massage

Underarm pain due to pulled or strained muscles can be relieved through soft massage. This will help to increase blood circulation in the affected area.

Underarm pain can also be relieved through the following procedures:

  • Taking warm bath
  • Giving back to oily and spicy food
  • Applying cold compress
  • Warming up before heavy exercise
  • Wearing loose-fitting and breathable clothes to limit sweating
  • Drinking enough amount of water everyday
  • Learning how to control stress or anxiety

When to see your Medical professional

Usually, a pain under your armpit is always less serious but you have to bear in your mind that, it can be a symptom of serious medical conditions i.e. heart or kidney failure.

Armpit pain can also occur with some serious symptoms that you can’t manage at home. In such a case, see your doctor. In addition, see your Doctor when your underarm pain is accompanied with the following symptoms:

  • Sudden severe pain under left armpit
  • Heaving bleeding
  • If you experience tightness when you apply your chest
  • Breathing problems, wheezing or chocking
  • If part of your body is paralyzed
  • A bone sticking out of the skin
Source of References
  1. Armpit Pain: Causes and Treatments: http://www.doctorshealthpress.com/pain-articles/armpit-pain
  2. What’s Causing My Armpit Pain: http://www.healthline.com/health/armpit-pain
  3. Pain Under Right Armpit: http://www.newhealthadvisor.com/Pain-Under-Right-Armpit.html
  4. Pain Under Left Armpit: http://www.newhealthadvisor.com/Pain-Under-Left-Armpit.html
  5. Pain under Right Armpit: http://www.medhealthdaily.com/pain-under-right-armpit/
  6. Causes of Underarm Pain: http://www.livestrong.com/article/238229-causes-of-underarm-pain/
  7. Armpit Pain: http://www.med-health.net/Armpit-Pain.html
  8. Underarm Pain Causes – Left, Right, Breast, & Sharp Shooting Pain under Armpit: http://www.healcure.org/armpit/armpit-pain/underarm-pain-causes-left-right-breast-sharp-shooting-pain-under-armpit/

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