Armpit pain – causes, treatment

Armpit pain

Due to the constant movement of the arms, the armpits are in constant work. However, some people experience armpit pain even when standing still . These are usually caused by lumps that appear suddenly, but can also be caused by other symptoms. Due to the individual symptom picture, the pain can be treated efficiently through professional diagnosis and therapy.

What is armpit pain?

The armpits connect the arm , shoulder , chest and back parts of the human being. For this reason, they are exposed to constant stress. Anatomically, the armpits represent a cavity under the shoulder joint .

They are formed by different muscle groups, which are used to varying degrees. Many important pathways and structures of the arms and chest pass through the cavity, so occasional armpit pain can occur.

Due to the muscles and pathways used, the pain cannot be traced back to a single cause. In addition to lymph glands , the causes of the pain can be varied, which means that injuries and diseases in these parts of the body should be taken seriously and examined by a doctor.


Armpit pain has a variety of causes, which can be either harmless or serious. The pain can be caused by the joint structures running on both sides, muscles of the shoulder girdle, nerves , lymphatic channels and nodes, tendons or blood vessels.

The lymph from the chest, neck and arms is also able to bring about the pain. Harmless causes are usually injuries or diseases of the musculoskeletal system of the entire shoulder system. Due to constant movement and use of the shoulder area, the armpits are in a persistently tense state.

In addition to the humerus, the pain can result from the collarbone , the shoulder blade or the shoulder joint. It is also possible that harmless pain is caused by strains , tension or tears in the armpit muscles. In particular, the chest and upper back muscles and the rotator cuff of the shoulder are often unknowingly overloaded, which can lead to injuries.

Inflammation can also cause armpit pain. Most inflammations are caused by pathogens that penetrate the skin or lymph nodes in the armpits. As a result of the inflammation, painful redness and swelling occur.

Minor injuries such as shaving increase the risk of inflammation , since the sensitive skin in the armpit area is superficially injured by razor blades, making it easier for viruses , fungi and bacteria to penetrate . Viral infections can also cause swollen lymph nodes . These infections include, for example, glandular fever or measles .

Only in rare cases do the lymph nodes in the armpit area swell without inflammation. The swelling always causes an unpleasant, painful feeling of pressure. Both harmless and malignant diseases in the drainage area of ​​the axillary lymph nodes can be the cause of this type of swelling.

If the pain and especially the swelling of the lymph nodes in the armpits occur without a previous illness, the symptoms can also indicate cancer . Many cancers affect the lymph node system, so cancer cells collect in the nodes and cause them to swell. In technical jargon, this condition is called lymph node metastasis. Above all, breast cancer or mammary carcinoma often affects the axillary lymph nodes.

At the same time, Hodgkin’s disease or Hodgkin’s disease is considered a malignant cancer of the lymphatic system. In the early stages of cancer, the lymph nodes swell, mainly in the neck area, but also in the groin or in the armpits. In addition to swelling, patients may also experience fever , weight loss , night sweats , and fatigue . The term non-Hodgkin lymphoma, on the other hand, summarizes all malignant diseases of the lymphatic system that do not belong to Hodgkin’s disease. Armpit pain may be a sign of non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

diseases with this symptom


Like the causes of armpit pain, the complications associated with each condition vary. Not every patient experiences complications in the course of an illness. Often , swollen lymph nodes in the armpit area occur as a side effect of a harmless disease such as inflamed sweat glands .

Slight infections also cause swelling. Although no therapy is necessary in these cases, many patients suffer from pain and sometimes limited mobility. If the diseases are treated, systematic side effects can occur due to the drugs administered, which in turn can cause pain.

Serious to life-threatening complications are caused by malignant swellings in the armpits, for example if they result from cancer. In this case, the carcinomas can grow unhindered and spread throughout the body. The metastases are able to affect the lymph nodes along with the entire lymphatic system and often other internal organs.

As a result, the organs can no longer work properly, which significantly reduces their ability to function. If the carcinomas are treated, especially in breast cancer, armpit pain may occur as a result of the treatment.

Surgical interventions in the course of cancer also ensure that patients become more susceptible to infections or have difficulties in healing the wounds. If radiation therapy is carried out , the organism of the patient is additionally stressed, so that they become less resistant to infections.

When should you go to the doctor?

In many patients, armpit pain and swelling occurs suddenly. Depending on the cause, these can disappear on their own within a few days or persist. If a harmless infection occurs in the patient, it can cause the swelling. After the infections have healed, the lymph nodes should shrink back to their original size, so that the doctor does not have to be consulted in this case.

However, if swelling or pain develops without a previous illness or strain on the nerve, musculoskeletal or muscle apparatus in the shoulder and chest areas, a doctor should be consulted to clarify the symptoms and causes. Before the doctor makes a diagnosis, those affected can make a brief self-diagnosis. Lymph nodes can be easily felt. If the nodules or swellings are benign, they can be easily moved. Non-displaceable but painless knots indicate an infection.

Swelling after vaccination is also possible. However, if movable or fixed lumps persist for more than two weeks, it is important to see a doctor as the lumps should usually subside within this period. The doctor is able to clarify the exact cause of the swelling and rule out other diseases. If the nodes swell, you do not necessarily have to see a doctor.

If patients want to get an accurate diagnosis, they should also first consult their family doctor . An internist can also help with long-term enlarged lumps under the armpits. The family doctor carries out initial examinations such as a blood test , ultrasound , computer tomography and tissue removal and, if necessary, refers the patient to a specialist.


The diagnosis of armpit pain begins with a detailed medical history. The doctor treating you then carries out a palpation or a careful examination by touch. Through this he gets a precise knowledge of the affected armpit and the occurrence of the lumps as well as pain.

If the doctor feels movable knots, which indicate a harmless infection, no further examinations are usually carried out. However, if the nodules do not swell on their own within several days, or if changes or enlargements occur, the doctor will initiate further examinations.

Blood and ultrasound tests as well as a tissue sample or biopsy are typical for an examination of the armpit and the lymph nodes. Based on the test results, the doctor is able to make an accurate diagnosis and the causes of the swelling and pain. The diagnosis with further examination methods can take a few days.

The diagnosis can also be used to exclude or narrow down certain diseases that may be responsible for the pain and lump formation.

Treatment & Therapy

Since several diseases have armpit pain and swollen lymph nodes as a typical symptom or side effect, treatment can only take place after an accurate diagnosis. Depending on the diagnosis, patients must undergo drug therapy or surgery. Serious immune system diseases in particular are treated with appropriate medication.

In the case of a furuncle or a malignant tumor or metastases, surgical treatment is carried out. Chemotherapy or radiotherapy may be required after surgery for malignant growths . On the other hand, harmless diseases that cause the nodules to swell do not require treatment. Sufficient rest and sleep and avoidance of physical exertion and stress are often sufficient for them , as the body fights the infection on its own.

If necessary , patients can improve and significantly strengthen their immune system by taking vitamin supplements and a healthy diet. Painkillers and antipyretics should also only be taken after consultation with the doctor treating you. Antibiotics are only prescribed after a bacterial infection. Harmless infections also take up to two months to heal completely. During this period, the lumps may still be noticeable and may be painful or tender.

Outlook & Forecast

If armpit pain occurs suddenly, it can be quickly diagnosed due to the palpable location. Above all, swollen lymph nodes can always be felt, so that the doctor treating you can make an initial examination and early prognosis relatively easily.

If the knots are easily displaceable and not growing, they will disappear within a few days to weeks. Since infections take around two months to completely subside, the harmless swellings can persist during this period. As the infection subsides, the nodes will also swell. However, if the lumps are caused by a serious illness such as a serious infection, cancer or rotator cuff injuries, the chances of recovery depend heavily on a timely diagnosis.

The sooner the patient or patients consult a doctor and have the symptoms clarified, the higher the chances of recovery. A doctor should be consulted in good time, especially in the case of cancer, which has swollen lymph nodes as an additional symptom. He can arrange further therapies in the form of radiation or drug therapy or an operation, which not only significantly increase the chances of recovery, but also the chances of survival.


Because armpit pain and swollen lymph nodes can occur as a result of other medical conditions, they are generally unpreventable.

The occurrence of pain and swelling also depends heavily on one’s own immune system. If a person is highly susceptible to harmless infectious diseases , they will feel the pain more quickly or the knots will form more quickly. People with a strong immune and defense system suffer less often from swelling of the lymph nodes or pain in the armpit area.

It is also possible that a physical reaction such as an allergy or an intolerance to certain substances or foods causes the symptoms. If any intolerances or allergies are known, those affected should avoid contact with the causes or, if possible, treat the symptoms independently. Above all, swelling of the lymph nodes due to allergies and intolerances can be treated quickly using the usually known scheme, so that the pain and swelling subside early.

If patients who are susceptible to a wide variety of infectious diseases due to a weak or weakened immune system would like to strengthen their immune system, they can use appropriate preparations. A healthy, varied diet is also recommended. The foods that strengthen your own immune system include, above all, almonds and spices in the form of caraway, cinnamon and ginger.

Instead, avoid consuming sugar, large amounts of red meat, fast food, and unhealthy fats such as refined vegetable oils and lard. The foods weaken the immune system and have a counterproductive effect on this project.

You can do that yourself

Due to the fact that swollen lymph nodes and armpit pain are almost impossible to prevent, sufferers and susceptible people can counteract possible diseases that cause the symptoms.

In order to reduce the likelihood of infection, the immune system should be strengthened. Ultimately, the stronger the body’s immune system is, the lower the chances of contracting an infectious disease. A strengthened immune system also helps to fight existing infections more quickly and consequently to recover more quickly.

If the pain or swollen lymph nodes occur under the armpits, those affected should rest their bodies to support the self-healing powers. In addition to plenty of sleep and rest, a balanced diet and enough fluids are particularly important. A daily fluid intake of at least two liters of water is recommended. If the state of health allows exercise, excursions such as short walks in the fresh air clearly help to improve the immune system and accelerate self-healing.

Certain home remedies can also provide relief, especially for pain. Ice compresses reduce muscle soreness in the armpit area, while warm compresses reduce lump swelling and pain. A massage of the affected area also helps to increase blood flow to the body area, which also reduces swelling. To avoid infection or an aggravated condition, care should also be taken not to further irritate the areas through sweating and high temperatures.

Brief showers with gentle cleansers keep the armpits clean, making infections less common. Shaving the armpit area should not be done during swelling or pain as this can cause further irritation. In addition, wearing loose-fitting clothing prevents chafing.

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Hello! I am Lisa Newlon, and I am a medical writer and researcher with over 10 years of experience in the healthcare industry. I have a Master’s degree in Medicine, and my deep understanding of medical terminology, practices, and procedures has made me a trusted source of information in the medical world.