For most of us, underarm is probably one of the last places on your body where you would expect to feel pain. But it`s actually not as surprising as it may seem. Armpit is a place where many muscles, tendons, ligaments, nerves and major blood vessels cross path, any any one of these structures can cause problems.
Also, armpit pain is often accompanied by anxiety, especially if you notice swelling or feel a painful lump. This is when most people start to panic, since their first association is cancer. But, in most cases underarm pain is relatively harmless and will go away on its own in a matter of days.
Of course, there are some serious condition involving pain localized in this region, which is why we will be discussing just that in the following text.
The Many Causes And Symptoms Of Armpit Pain
We say many because there truly are many different causes of pain in the armpit area. For this very reason my first and most important advice to you would be to visit your doctor! I know that this can cause quite a bit of anxiety as well, especially if you are thinking negatively, but keep in mind that as much as we try to give you facts and help you understand your body, we can only offer you so much without a physical examination.
That being said, we are going to go over some of the most common causes of armpit pain known today:
Brachial Plexus Injuries
Brachial plexus is a whole network of nerves, originating in the neck and branching off to either side of the body, responsible for movement and sensation of the upper limbs. On their path they go through the axilla (armpit) and continue on into the arm.
Brachial plexus injuries can come in various different shapes and sizes but they all have one thing in common – injury to the nerves. And we can categorize these injuries depending on the severity of the damage done to the nerve itself. The nerve can be:
- Stretched and/or compressed with good chances of full, fast recovery
- Stretched and/or partially torn and
- Pulled out of the spinal cord with no chance of recovery
Of course, the nerves will not tear on their own, there is an incredible amount of force required for this to happen. This is why these injuries are most commonly caused by severe trauma such as high-speed vehicle accidents, blunt trauma or gunshot wounds. The can also be caused by inflammatory processes in the Brachial plexus itself.
Common symptoms are pain (varying in intensity), weakness in the muscles, loss of sensation along with paralysis of some muscles of the upper limb.
As you can see, this is a serious condition and you should not attempt to do any sort of self-diagnosis/treatment. Contact your doctor and, after accessing the damage, they might advise either non-surgical or surgical treatment.
Body`s Reactions To Cosmetic Products
The topic of cosmetic products certainly deserves an entire article (or even more), but since this is not the main topic of today`s article, we will refrain from going into too many details.
Parabens – Parabens are a chemical compound used in food, medicinal products and cosmetics and, according to some recent studies, are included in 99% of all cosmetic products used today. Our body can absorb them through skin, blood and digestive system. So, why are we talking about it them today?
Well, according to a number of publications by Darbre and Harvey, there is a link between these chemicals and breast cancer. However, the scientists have been criticized (there were fault in the design of their studies) and, after much debate, it was concluded that there was no clear link between Parabens and breast cancer. (you can read the full document here: Consumer Protection)
Back to our underarm pain. As you can see, there are a lot of uncertainties here, but if you apply the deodorant frequently to one specific area (armpit in this case) and do not rinse properly, it can cause irritation to the skin, redness, itching and even pain.
Muscle Strains And Injuries
One of the reason there are so many muscles and tendons in this area is to protect the delicate bundle of nerves and blood vessels. In regular people, injuries to the armpit region are not that common, but in certain athletes they are fairly common.
Any sport that involves a violent swinging motion of the arm, can cause pain in this region – sports such as basketball, tennis, javelin throw or tennis. Throwing javelin, for instance, requires a tremendous amount of force, which can lead to excessive muscle stretch and painful injuries. This is why athletes spend so much time in training, to adopt a proper technique and strengthen the muscles to avoid injury.
If you picked up a javelin right now and attempted to hurdle it as far as you can, chances are you would to some damage to the muscles and cause problems.
There is yet another, quite fun way to cause underarm pain – throwing snowballs! Yup, as surprising as it may seem, throwing a snowball over and over again (especially if you are aiming for a target in the distance) can overstretch and fatigue your muscles. Of course, this is just harmless fun, but you might end up with a sore and painful shoulder, so be careful.
Though not terribly common, infections can lead to painful and swollen armpits.
Lymphangitis is certainly one of them and it is caused by an acute streptococcal infection of the skin. The infection causes lymph nodes to become inflamed, tender and swollen.
This infection can even spread into the blood and cause serious health problems. Its most common symptoms are:
- Enlarged and tender lymph nodes
- Loss of appetite
- Muscle strains and pain
Infection is commonly treated with antibiotics and pain is managed with pain medicine.
Certain fungal infections as well as viruses can lead to pain in this area.
Hodgkin’s and Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma
Both Hodgkin`s and Non-Hodgkin`s Lymphoma are cancers originating in a type of white blood cells. They are most likely to begin in the lymph nodes in the upper body (including armpit), causing them to become enlarged, but they remain painless. Other symptoms include general weight loss, night sweats and fevers.
The prognosis will largely depend on the exact type of lymphoma, localization, rate of growth and the stadium of the disease.
Other Common Causes
In addition to these listed above, underarm pain can also be caused by:
- Bone fracture
- Minor cuts
- Cysts or
- Fatty growths
Should You Visit Your Doctor And When
We always advise people do go see a doctor whenever they notice something wrong and this is no exception. On course, in most cases, armpit pain is nothing to be worried about, especially if it lasts for only couple days and is a result of a minor blow to the region.
On the other hand, if you`ve been experiencing pain for a prolonged period of time, if it is getting worse or it is accompanied by some other symptoms, visiting your doctor should be high on your priorities list.
- Image Credit: “Gray808“. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.