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Sharp, Dull or Stabbing Armpit Pain Causes and Relief Ways

Pain in armpit has several possible causes. Some of the potential causes could be enlarged lymph nodes in the armpit, pinched nerve, cancer, swollen armpit among other causes. In addition, it can also be due disorders of organs close by.

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

Here is detailed information causes, symptoms and diagnosis that will include sharp or stabbing pain, and in left and right armpit, with or without the lump, treatments, and effective treatments to relieve the condition.


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 could be present alongside some very painful lumps 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, it could be on the right left or the right armpit and can extend to nearby areas 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.


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.

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

1. Armpit lymph node pain (Lymphadenitis)

Armpit pain due to swollen lymph nodes
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 the area near the infected or inflamed site. This results in the swollen lymph node that can lead to sharp shooting pain. “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
Hidradenitis suppurativa

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

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

3. Muscle Strain

Pinching armpit pain due to muscle pinch or tear
Due 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 include 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 triggers 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 narrowed or obstructed. When this happens, there will be reduced blood flow in the concerned arteries. This can, therefore, result in a sharp, shooting pain underarm as well as on other parts.

6. Pregnancy and breastfeeding

Armpit pain due to pregnancy

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

On the other hand,  during breastfeeding, it can be experienced when a mother produces 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 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 the virus attacks the nerves and hence results in painful rashes in the body.

This condition develops close to your armpit, then you may experience some 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 mean 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 whereby small arteries in your arms and legs narrow 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]

11. 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 lead 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 occur in your armpit, definitely you can experience some pain in your armpit.

12. 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 crutches (walking sticks)
  • Granular infections, the bacterial infection caused by poor armpit hygiene, intense sweating or increased temperature.
  • Anxiety 
  • Acid reflux and heartburn
  • Hyperthyroidism
  • Sporotrichosis

 Symptoms and diagnosis

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

  • 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
  • A headache and fever

During 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 reasons, it is always recommended to visit your doctor for proper diagnosis especially when you suffer symptoms of underarm pain that you feel may be serious.

On Left armpit

It is possible to experience pain in both armpits (bilateral) but usually, people are very concerned about left than right armpit pain. This is because your heart is located on the left side of your chest. This makes them always assume it 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 causes are similar to both left and right armpit but causes or rather symptoms such as shortness of breath, jaw and upper neck pain, headache, toothache, sweating, heartburn, racing heart, dizziness, anxiety and general malaise etc. can be due to a heart problem.

Some symptoms of pain during lifting objects or weights could be due to the disorder of joints or muscles and not heart problems. Your doctor can also help to determine whether it 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 may resembles electric pulse and it can be throbbing! It 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 the arm as well as other places. Below are the common causes:

  • 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
 no lump

This pain can be present with or without a lump. When with no lump are usually sudden and may last for a shorter time as compared to painful armpit with lump. Also, it can also last for even a week, for instance, those triggered by shoulder dislocation or breastfeeding.

Some other causes when one has no a lump are pregnancy, peripheral artery diseases, Lymphadenitis, muscles strain, brachial plexus injury or heartburn among others.

On the other hand, it can occur with lumps and this may be due to viral, bacterial and fungal infections, Hidradenitis, cancer, allergies, waxing and shaving, and many more.

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

I don’t tend to mean that all cases 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 cases without the lump. Their severity in the two situations will depend on 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
Under armpit and breast

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

a). Cyclic 

The cyclic case is due to menstrual hormonal cycles. It is characterized by 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 

Such 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 is 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 will depend on the seriousness and the underlying causes. Some mild cases may just vanish of their own. At the same time, some it 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 and treatments to help you relieve and soothe your underarms. 

a). Medications

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

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

When bacteria 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 every day 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

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

It 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 every day
  • Learning how to control stress or anxiety

When to see your Medical professional

Usually, pain on this area 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.

Sometimes, it 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 by 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. http://www.doctorshealthpress.com/pain-articles/armpit-pain
  2. http://www.healthline.com/health/armpit-pain
  3. http://www.newhealthadvisor.com/Pain-Under-Right-Armpit.html
  4. http://www.newhealthadvisor.com/Pain-Under-Left-Armpit.html
  5. http://www.medhealthdaily.com/pain-under-right-armpit/
  6. http://www.livestrong.com/article/238229-causes-of-underarm-pain/
  7. Armpit Pain: http://www.med-health.net/Armpit-Pain.html

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