Armpit Pain: Causes and Effective Natural Treatments for Sore Armpits

Armpit Pain - Causes and Effective Natural Treatments

Armpit pain or a general pain in the underarm area (also called axilla) can be caused by a number of different reasons. Our underarm areas contain many lymph nodes that can become inflamed and infected, which can cause pain in your left armpit as well as in your right armpit. There are also many muscles, tendons, and nerves in the armpits which can cause discomfort or pain in the underarm area if they are damaged or inflamed.

Many people become very anxious if they have armpit pain, especially if it’s accompanied by a sore lump or swelling. In most cases, the cause of the underarm pain is harmless and will go away on its own. Of course, there are serious conditions involving pain under the armpit, and you should always seek medical attention, especially if the pain doesn’t go away.

In this article, I’m going to look at the causes of armpit pain and what natural treatments you can use to relieve sore underarm.

Symptoms of Pain in Armpit

Sore armpit is usually accompanied by other symptoms that can help diagnose the underlying cause of the pain. If you feel pain under your left armpit, you may feel anxious because one of the signs of a heart attack can be squeezing chest pains that spread to the left arm and jaw. You may even feel shooting, sharp pains that go down the left arm or across to the left chest.

Other accompanying symptoms of sore armpit if you have a viral infection can be runny nose, fever, and enlarge lymph nodes under your armpit that may be sore. If you suffer from an inflammatory skin condition like eczema or psoriasis, you may have itchy red armpit rash that becomes painful.

Sometimes a sore lump or cyst may develop in your armpit that may ooze pus-like discharge, or you may have enlarged lymph node that may or may not be painful. If you wax or shave your armpit then you may notice skin irritation and small red sore bumps called razor burns, or a lump that contains an ingrown hair.

If your sore armpit is a result of a damage to a muscle or nerve, you may feel pain, weakness, or tingling down the left or right arm or swelling of the upper arm and shoulders.

Causes of Sore Armpit

Some people experience some discomfort or slight pain under their armpit, whereas for some the underarm pain is severe. What are the causes of discomfort or pain under the left armpit or right one?

Armpit Rash

An armpit rash can also be a reason why you have discomfort or pain in your armpit. Of course, you will be able to see the rash and it could be accompanied with red itchy armpit skin as well as flaky skin.

There are many reasons for an armpit rash that causes pain in the underarm area. WebMD says that some of these are:3

  • Dermatitis or psoriasis
  • Fungal infections
  • Candidiasis
  • Ringworms
  • Staphylococcus infection

To help treat your underarm rash you can use some coconut oil on the affected area. Coconut oil has antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, and moisturizing properties4 that can help to relieve armpit pain that is caused by a rash.

Coconut oil also helps to topically treat candida (yeast) infections.5 All you have to do is apply coconut oil to the underarm area several times a day to treat the rash and relieve the discomfort or pain. For more information, read my ultimate guide to using coconut oil for yeast infections.

You can also add 2-3 drops of tea tree essential oil to 1 tbsp. coconut oil and apply to the affected area. Tea tree has many antifungal properties that can help to kill infections and soothe the pain that is caused by a rash in the underarm areas.

Aloe vera can also help you treat armpit rash that is causing you pain in that area. Aloe vera has anti-microbial and anti-inflammatory effects and you can use it to treat various skin problems including underarm rash. For more information, please read my article about the benefits and uses of aloe vera for skin.

Sometimes your deodorant can cause a sore rash under your armpit. Coconut oil can be used as an ingredient in a natural deodorant. If you are interested in switching to natural deodorants to avoid armpit rash and discomfort, you should read my article: The Best Natural Home Remedies to Get Rid of Underarm Odor.

Pulled or Sore Muscle

A pulled muscle can cause you severe armpit pain. Pulled muscles usually happen when you strain your arm too much, for example, when exercising or lifting heavy items, or from doing a repetitive action over a long period of time.

To relieve the sore armpit caused by a pulled muscle, the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases recommend resting the affected arm. Then to ease the pain, you can apply an ice pack for 20 minutes 4 – 8 times a day.6

Remember never to apply ice directly on the skin. You should be aware that a cold treatment should be used for 24 to 48 hours after an injury. After this period you need to use heat therapy, as I’ve mentioned in my guide about cold and heat therapy for pain.

Shoulder Dislocation

If you dislocate your shoulder you will obviously have intense sharp shooting pain under your armpit and in the shoulder area. You could also experience tingling, weakness, or numbness in your neck and arm.

In case of shoulder dislocation you should seek prompt medical attention.7 The Mayo Clinic recommends that to ease the pain of a dislocated shoulder you should apply ice to the tender area for 20 minutes every couple of hours. Do this for the first two days. Then switch to using a heat pack and apply for 20 minutes.

Brachial Plexus Injury

Brachial plexus injury is the term for an injury to the nerves that come from your neck to either side of your body. These nerves are responsible for movements in your arms. The nerves can get injured by any kind of trauma, for example, playing sports or being in a car accident. Brachial plexus injury will cause severe pain in all the areas where the nerves have been damaged, including pain under the armpit.

It is important to see a doctor in cases of injury to the shoulder because a brachial plexus injury can result in loss of movement in your arms.

Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) or Heartburn

In rare cases, GERD can cause pain in the general underarm area. Dr. Mark Babyatsky explains that GERD can cause the diaphragm to become inflamed and this can affect the nerves in the spine causing pain in the arms and shoulders.8

There are many ways that you can treat digestive problems like GERD and heartburn naturally such as baking soda, as well as other treatments.

It’s worth noting that GRED is also one of the causes of stomach pain after eating.

Shingles and nerve pain under armpit

Shingles are described as a painful, blistering rash on the skin that is caused by the varicella-zoster virus. Shingles can cause unbearable pain on the skin which can last for a few weeks. Other symptoms of shingles include burning or tingling sensation resulting in skin which is sensitive to touch.

Intercostobrachial Neuralgia

Pain management specialist, Dr. Jason G. Attaman says that armpit pain can be caused by Intercostobrachial neuralgia. This is damage to the spinal nerves that go to the arm and it causes burning, sharp shooting pain in the underarm region. This most commonly happens after breast surgery but the underarm pain can also be as a result of radiation therapy or trauma to the ribs.11

Waxing or shaving (razor burn and razor bumps)

Removing hair from the armpit can cause pain just after the process. The skin can also become infected, thus causing underarm pain.

Waxing and shaving can also cause ingrown armpit hair that can cause bumps or pimples, underarm cysts and even infected boils.

To soothe irritated and sore skin after shaving and prevent armpit pain, you can apply a little aloe vera to the shaved area. You can also use other treatments to get rid of razor bumps and razor burns.

Hidradenitis suppurativa

This chronic skin condition can cause large sore nodules or boil-like lumps that cause pain under your armpit. This condition usually affects areas where the skin rubs together, such as in the armpits, groin and buttocks and develops as a result of inflammation and infection of sweat glands.

Very often, these firm skin lesions tend to enlarge, can be very sore and drain pus.

Treating the symptoms of hidradenitis suppurativa depends on the severity of the condition and may include warm compress, anti inflammatory medication, antibiotics and topical applications.11

Peripheral artery disease (PAD)

A persistent soreness under your armpit can indicate that you have a type of peripheral artery disease (PAD) that affects the arm and is called arm artery disease.

In this condition small arteries in the arm and armpit become narrowed and blood flow is reduced. Symptoms of arm artery disease can include cramping or loss of feeling in the right or left arm, pain or discomfort in one or both of your arms, or one or both arms have pale, reddish blue skin and is cool to touch.13

The best way to prevent PAD and its associated symptoms is to look after your cardiovascular system and maintain a good heart health. You can take some steps to improve your blood circulation and incorporate simple lifestyle changes that will greatly reduce your risk of a heart attack.

Sore Lump In Armpit (Women Only)

Breast Pain

Most causes of a sore lump in armpit are nothing to worry about. However sometimes you may a sore breast in addition to the sore armpit lump.

According to the Breast Cancer Foundation, breast pain is classified as any kind of discomfort, tenderness, or pain in the breast or underarm region.9 Breast pain and underarm pain commonly affect women before their period.

The Breast Cancer Foundation reassures women that there are a number of harmless causes of breast pain and it is not usually a symptom of cancer.

Breast Cancer

It is important that all women regularly check their breast health to look for signs or changes. One sign of breast cancer is lumps in the breast, armpit or collarbone. The American Cancer Society says that sometimes swelling or lumps in your armpits can occur before you feel a lump in your breast.10 This is because breast cancer usually spreads to the lymph nodes first.

If you have swollen lymph nodes in your armpit or pain, you should have it checked out by a doctor. Breast cancer is more successfully treated if it is discovered early.

Of course, there are many reasons why you can have armpit pain, and more often than not the cause is something harmless. However, it is always best to speak with a health care practitioner if you have concerns.

There are other signs of breast cancer that you can read about in my article about the 5 unconventional signs of breast cancer.

Painful Armpit Lump Affecting Men and Women

Swollen Sore Lymph Nodes

A swollen lymph node can be a reason for a sore lump in armpit causing armpit pain. Part of the body’s immune system is the lymphatic system comprising of lymph nodes in different areas of the body. One of those areas is the armpits. Dr. Jennifer Robinson on WebMD says that infections can cause the lymph nodes to swell and that can cause pain.1 So, tenderness and pain in the underarms can be a result of sore lymph nodes under your armpit which indicate that your body is fighting an infection.

Dr. Robinson also says that if you have a hard lump under your armpit that doesn’t move and doesn’t cause pain, you should see a health care provider.

Another condition connected with the lymphatic system that can cause underarm pain is lymphangitis. This is caused by a streptococcal bacterial skin infection. Dr. Jatin M. Vyas from Harvard Medical School says that some of the symptoms of lymphangitis are fever, enlarged and tender lymph nodes in the armpit, elbow or groin, red streaks from the infected area to the armpit or groin, and pain.2

Cyst in armpit

One cause of underarm pain is if a cyst develops and presses on a nerve in your armpit. Cysts in the armpits are usually harmless sac-like structures that are filled with pus, liquid, or other material. If the armpit cyst is filled with pus, it is usually called an abscess.

In my article about cyst in armpit I describe various conditions that can cause painful cyst to develop under your armpit, such as ingrown hair, sebaceous cyst, epidermoid cyst and cancer.

How to Treat Sore Armpits

Apart from the methods mentioned above on how to get rid of underarm pain, there are a few more home remedies that you can try if you have discomfort or pain under the armpit:

Warm Bath

A warm bath can help to relieve armpit pain. You can try soaking in a warm bath for 20 minutes. You can add to the bath 1/2 cup of baking soda or 1/2 cup of sea salt or Epsom salt. This can help to clean and remove toxins from the skin and soothe irritated skin.


You could try massaging some oil into the painful or sore underarm area to get a relief. You could add 2-3 drops of lavender oil to 1 tbsp. coconut oil or olive oil and gently massage into the sore area. This can provide needed relief and increase blood circulation to the armpit.

Good hygiene

Always practice good hygiene and keep your underarm, and other areas that are prone to infection, clean and dry. Always shower and dry yourself thoroughly after activities where you sweat.

Ice pack to relieve sore underarm

Use ice packs to relieve soreness from strained or injured muscles around the armpit area.

How to use:

To use an ice pack to prevent or relieve muscle soreness around the underarm area this is what you should do:

  1. Put crushed ice in a sealable plastic bag and wrap in a thin towel.
  2. Apply to your sore muscle under the armpit for 15 minutes between 4 and 8 times a day to make muscle soreness go away.
  3. Continue icing the underarm area for the first 2 days after your injury to help the affected muscles heal quicker.

Read these related article:
1. Itchy Armpits: Causes and Effective Natural Treatments
2. How to Get Rid of Armpit Rash: The Best Natural Remedies
3. Discover the 5 Unconventional Signs of Breast Cancer
4. Seven Types of Pain You should Never Ignore

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