armpit pain

The pain usually always indicates that something is wrong with the body. For example, in the armpit area, pain can be a sign of overloading the muscular and joint structures. But even more, serious causes of pain such as lymph nodes or breast cancer are sometimes the trigger and indication for underarm pain. If the symptoms persist, a doctor must be interpreted so that you can promptly resolve serious health problems with appropriate countermeasures.

Armpit

The armpit (axilla) is a colloquial depression in the upper part of the body located in the chest, shoulders, and upper arm cavity. Its shape is largely determined by the shoulder joints’ inner surface (articulatio humeri), with the shape being more precisely defined by different parts of the muscles. They are:

  • Large pectoral muscle,
  • Pectoralis minor (Musculus pectoralis minor),
  • Subcapsular muscle (Musculus subscapularis),
  • Large back muscle (Musculus latissimus dorsi),
  • Large round muscle (musculus teres major),
  • Chicken muscle (serratus anterior muscle),
  • Upper arm muscle (coracobrachialis muscle),
  • Flexors/biceps of the arm (biceps brachii muscle).

Also, there are numerous anatomical structures with functional tasks within the armpit. For example, the armpit contains many human sweat glands (Glandulae sudorigerae apocrine). They are not only needed for sweating. They are also needed to regulate body temperature.

At the same time, the substances of the sexual messenger, better known as pheromones, are also secreted by these glands. Axillary lymph nodes (Nodi lymphatic akillares) are also located in the armpit. They are responsible for cleansing the lymph under the armpit, which passes through the tissue and crucially affects the exchange of nutrients with the bloodstream and the immune system’s function.

Numerous blood vessels and nerve endings also belong to the armpit. Among the blood vessels, the axillary vein (Vena akillaris) should be mentioned here, and the axillary artery (Arteria akillaris) and its numerous secondary branches. They distribute blood to the hands, which clearly shows the organs’ important tasks under the armpits.

The plexus of the arm (plexus brachialis) in the armpit area, the nerve plexus from which the nerves of the arm, shoulder, and chest originate, shows how much the armpit functions as a node for important structural processes in the upper body tissue. Besides, the presence of complex nerve structures also explains why the armpit emits a stimulus for pain relatively quickly, even with minor irritation.

The source of pain does not have to be located in the armpit itself but can also be located in adjacent parts of the body, from where the pain radiates through the plexus of the arm and into the armpit.

Development of armpit pain

Because the armpit is made up of so many different structures and types of tissue, the causes of armpit pain can also be very varied and inherently harmless, and sometimes dangerous. Here, muscle pain is most often caused by excessive or irregular strain on the armpit muscles during training. For this reason, armpit pain is not uncommon in sports medicine.

However, the anatomical accumulation of lymph nodes and lymph vessels predetermines the armpit area due to pain caused by swollen lymph nodes. Such swelling can occur during several illnesses and often indicate health problems that affect the immune system or cell tissue. In this context, he is terrified of lymph node cancer. But less dangerous diseases such as inflammation of the lymph vessels can be labeled as indicators of this condition.

Innocent causes of underarm pain

armpit

In most cases, underarm pain is actually a harmless change in our body.

Even after mere cosmetic interventions, such as removing underarm hair by shaving, improper use of razors can lead to local irritation leading to pain. Such a scenario is all the more probable if the shaved armpit comes into contact with aggressive substances, such as fragrant deodorants. Also, the combination of local irritation, hair regrowth, and bacteria can lead to small foci of inflammation. In most cases, they are harmless in nature and usually resolve in a few days without any great effort. Until then, however, mild pain may persist.

It’s good to know: In some cases, mistakes in shaving the armpits, but also improper personal hygiene or friction in the armpit area, cause annoying pimples. And they can lead to pain if there is pressure or friction.

Another fairly harmless cause of underarm pain is wearing too-tight clothing. Women should pay attention to this problem when choosing a too-narrow bra. Pain in the shoulder due to too narrow shoulder straps or under the armpits due to pressure on the chest is common. The same goes for corsets that are too tight.

Pain under the armpits due to improper loading

The armpit is also very prone to pain because numerous structures in this area are sensitive to excessive loads. Especially in sports, improper loading of muscles and shoulder joints can easily lead to underarm pain. The classic complaints here are caused by sore muscles, muscle tension, sprains of the shoulder joint, and physical sports injuries such as torn muscle fibers.

This cause of underarm pain is often the result of insufficient muscle training combined with incorrectly or too intensely performed movement sequences during training. In this regard, a weakened rotational cuff has been repeatedly identified as a cause of armpit pain due to excessive exercise. The mentioned muscular-tendon plate is largely formed from the parts of the muscles located in the armpit area and extends to the shoulders or upper arms.

This injury is common in:

  • Weight training
  • Tennis
  • RowingSkijnja
  • Swimming

There are also some sports that, with their special focus on shoulder and arm movements, increase the risk of injuries and the risk of armpit pain. In addition to weight training (e.g., weightlifting), martial arts are particularly risky, involving punches to the arms and chest or pressure on these parts of the body. This applies, for example, to boxing, kickboxing.

In everyday life, however, it is more likely that armpit pain is associated with joints and muscles due to poor posture. The symptoms are mainly a consequence of lack of exercise, which results in shortened muscles. Muscle pain is difficult to rule out if shortened; sometimes, completely stunted muscles are exposed to special stress. A typical scenario in which underarm pain is caused in this way is, for example, the monotonous position of the arms and shoulders when working in front of a computer or when playing games on a computer and console. Then the pain usually worsens with movement or some effort, while it often disappears even when you rest.

Musculoskeletal disorders

As a result of degenerative wear, armpit pain is not uncommon. Under certain circumstances, arthritic processes are not limited to the shoulder joint but also affect other joints’ sections.

In such a case, the pain usually occurs when the affected joint is moved or loaded.

Arthritis of the shoulder joint:

The joints’ degenerative processes can sometimes be accompanied by inflammation of the joint parts. The pain is especially pronounced in such a case, and in addition to stress and pain in movement, it can also occur at rest.

Vertebral block:

As a result of injuries or prolonged irregular stress (e.g., due to overweight), small joint areas between the vertebral bodies and ribs may become stuck, or the intervertebral discs in the cervical area and the thoracic spine may prolapse. It is not uncommon for pain due to this condition to radiate to the armpit.

Torn muscle or muscle fiber:

Causes related to muscle injury will most likely lead to pain under the upper arm’s armpits and shoulders. “Torn shoulder” is a common term here. Although the symptoms usually cause only a minor rupture of the muscle’s fibers, scenarios of serious accidents or physical cracks can also lead to very intense muscle damage, which greatly increases the potential for pain.

Brachial plexus removal:

Also caused by accidents or falls, the nerve plexus is stuck in the armpit area. This can lead to sensory discomfort and pain in the armpit and motor failure, and paralysis of the fingers. The nerves that extend in the armpits area continue mainly in the extremities of the hands and arms, where they shape motor abilities. If the jam is not adequately eliminated, permanent damage can also occur, which then triggers irreversible nervous disorders with chronic pain.

Inflammation and infection

underarm infection

In infectious diseases, armpit pain generally indicates activity immune system. During immune defense reactions, axillary lymph nodes grow by stopping infectious agents by mass-producing immune cells. This process can occur on the one hand through local inflammation, but on the other hand also in infections between organs. Examples of local inflammation and diseases that cause inflammation of the lymph nodes:

  • Inflammation of the sweat or sebum glands (inverse acne),
  • Inflammation in the context of infected venous approaches,
  • Infectious cuts of the upper extremities,
  • Inflammation of the mammary gland (mastitis),
  • HI viruses ( HIV infection ),
  • Epstein-Baar viruses (Pfeiffer’s glandular fever),
  • Mycobacteria (tuberculosis),
  • Toxoplasma (toxoplasmosis).

Armpit pain with vascular disease

Some vascular diseases are also able to cause underarm pain. In this regard, thrombosis is not nearly as common in the upper extremities as in the legs. Still, it can occur there and then, among other things, is expressed by armpit pain and redness, swelling, and functional damage to the arm in question.

However, the clinical picture of thrombophlebitis occurs much more often in connection with intravenous infusion therapy. In this case, the superficial vein in which the venous cannula was located becomes inflamed due to non-compliance with hygiene guidelines. If local inflammation is not recognized and treated in time, the attacking pathogens can rise along the armpit vein and cause further inflammatory reactions, followed by pain, swelling, and redness. Therefore, hygienic intervention on the diseased vein is necessary.

Pain in the armpit indicating tissue abnormalities

Underarm pain can also occur in the complete absence of potential pathogens. If underarm pain occurs with a palpable swelling in the lymph nodes, accompanied by weight loss, it can be a worrying indicator of malignant disease.

If cancer is present, it can happen, for example, that degenerated cancer cells accumulate in the lymph vessels. Although there are corresponding lymph nodes in all parts of the body, such cell metastases tend to accumulate in places where the body has depressions, such as the armpits.

Breast cancer is typical cancer, which in this way quite often causes swollen axillary lymph nodes and pain under the armpits. Women affected by this cancer near the armpit become alarmed as soon as cancer cells’ deposits cause nodules and pain in the armpit area. Lymph cancer can also cause armpit problems.

If swelling occurs and does not go away in the next two to three weeks at the most, your doctor should examine you. Such swelling of the sentinel lymph nodes may indicate two different oncological events:

Degeneration of other organs or organ systems with metastases in the surrounding lymph nodes:

In this type of cancer, the primary tumor can be found in another organ or organ system. Swelling of the lymph nodes occurs due to distant colonization by cells from other organs. The earlier such a finding is made, the better the prognosis is expected. The most common types of cancer with swollen lymph nodes in the armpits are:

  • Breast cancer,
  • Thyroid cancer (malignant goiter),
  • Blood cancer (leukemia),
  • Stomach cancer (stomach cancer),
  • Lung cancer (bronchial cancer).

Degeneration of the lymphatic system:

The cells of the lymphatic system itself can also degenerate. Depending on the cell type, it differs:

Hodgkin’s disease,

Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

Both forms begin with nonspecific and painless swelling of the lymph nodes, especially in the neck or armpits. If detected early, Hodgkin’s disease can usually be treated well and shows a very good prognosis with a ten-year survival rate of almost 90 percent. In contrast, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma shows a very early and high spread rate and therefore does not have such a good prognosis.

In addition to cancer, there are several other benign tissue abnormalities that can also lead to armpit pain. In the cavities of the armpit tissue, there is often a collection of secretions, such as:

Cysts,

Acne,

Edema,

or abscesses

Unusual pressure is again applied to the armpit tissue, which eventually causes pain with nerve stimuli. These ailments are usually not dangerous. However, appropriate measures should be taken to drain the secretions and bring the affected tissue back to normal.

Parallel symptoms

Depending on the cause, armpit pain can be perceived as pressing, dull, stabbing, or burning. For example, if swollen lymph nodes cause the pain, painful perceptions sometimes occur only when the pressure increases by pulling the hand towards the torso.

If local inflammation is involved, the pain is usually accompanied by localized swelling, overheating, and redness.

Functional limitations, numbness, and abnormal sensations are also possible (especially in the fingers’ area). If there is a basic infection through the organs, numerous non-specific accompanying symptoms can also occur.

  • Fever and fatigue.
  • Nausea and vomiting,
  • Flu-like symptoms,
  • Sore throat and difficulty swallowing.

Diagnosis

The causes of underarm pain can sometimes only be determined by a thorough physical examination. Although patients can determine certain indications independently by private palpation, such as swollen lymph nodes or pimples, a medical examination is still urgently needed.

The doctor will first carefully history to detect possible scenarios of accidents and illness based on information about the patient about existing accompanying symptoms, daily habits, or previous illnesses. A physical examination is then performed depending on the suspicion. For example, X-rays or ultrasounds are possible here. Exercise tests to check muscles and joints’ health are also an option. If cancer is suspected, blood and lymph water tests are also possible.

Therapies

Depending on the cause, underarm pain can be treated with simple home remedies and herbal measures (e.g., for painful pimples) or surgical steps. Which approach is appropriate must be assessed on a case-by-case basis. Overall, the following approaches are possible:

Home remedies

If the armpit area is painfully affected by overload or injuries, of course, a part of the body must first be spared from further activity. Avoid lifting heavy loads or reloading with disproportionate force. Depending on the lesion’s severity, sports breaks of one to several weeks are possible. This is especially true for very severe muscle and joint injuries.

In addition to protection, cooling can also help relieve armpit pain. Cold compresses, quark foil, or cold packs are good options.

Exercise

The only way to fight the pain caused by weakened muscle sections, for example, during the poor posture, lack of exercise, or too demanding training units, is to strengthen the muscles.

In addition to strengthening the muscles against armpit pain, stretching exercises, such as yoga, are just as important as strength training. 

Stretching exercises are just as important as strength training so that the tissue becomes more flexible and elastic at the same time. In addition to targeted muscle building, such as push-ups, dumbbell training, or sports such as swimming, exercise measures such as yoga are also a good way to prevent armpit pain caused by excessive and improper exertion.

In everyday life, it is also recommended, especially for people who have to sit a lot because of work, to take regular breaks. A short break can be used to perform stretching and arm movement exercises.

Everyone who trains should also warm up well to prepare their muscles well.

Medicinal herbs

Not only can abscesses, ulcers, and pimples sometimes heal very well herbal medicines. Muscles and joints also respond well to the treatment methods provided by Mother Nature. Here’s what helps:

  • Valerian,
  • Mugwort,
  • Comfrey,
  • Chile,
  • Spruce,
  • Johannis herbs,
  • Chamomile,
  • and marigold

These herbal remedies are used for muscle tension, muscle tension, and muscle injuries. For this purpose, they can be used in the form of tinctures, ointments, or herbal wraps for armpits. You can do the same with joint problems, with the following herbs recommended with comfrey:

  • Polish horsetail,
  • Arnica,
  • Nettle,
  • Hay flower,
  • Rosemary,
  • Devil’s Claw,
  • Juniper,
  • Pasture.

A special tip for muscle and joint problems is the so-called Tiger Balm. This balm is made from extremely warming herbal extracts from traditional Chinese medicine. It contains menthol, camphor oil, and kajeput, which usually have an extraordinary effect on any complaints related to muscles and joints.

By the way: horsetail, chamomile, and calendula are good choices for cysts and pimples.

Medications

The most important medicines for underarm pain are painkillers such as diclofenac, ibuprofen, or paracetamol. However, these drugs should only be used if it is essential. If there are serious underlying diseases, it is possible to use other drugs (e.g., cytostatics for cancer or venous drugs for thrombosis symptoms).

Surgery

Surgical measures are necessary when removing the tumor. However, larger cysts and edema may also need to be drained with surgical drainage. The treating physician decides when such steps are appropriate.

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