What causes underarm pain?

Underarm pain may arise from any injury or inflammation of the underarm. It may also be referred pain from the chest, which may occur with serious coronary conditions.

Common causes of underarm pain

Underarm pain may be caused by minor injuries or inflammation of the underarm including:

  • Bone fracture
  • Irritation of the underarm
  • Minor cuts or lacerations of the underarm
  • Nerve entrapment or compression
  • Overuse injury
  • Sports injuries

Other causes of underarm pain

Underarm pain can also be caused by many other conditions including:

  • Cyst (benign sac that contains fluid, air, or other materials)
  • Fibromyalgia (chronic condition that causes pain, stiffness and tenderness)
  • Common cold (viral respiratory infection)
  • Infection of the underarm, including abscess or cellulitis (infection of the skin and tissues beneath the skin)
  • Surgery
  • Viral infections

Serious or life-threatening causes of underarm pain

In some cases, underarm pain may be a symptom of a serious or life-threatening condition that should be evaluated immediately in an emergency setting. These include:

  • Angina (chest pain due to reduced blood flow to the heart)
  • Deep vein thrombosis of the arm (blood clot that can break loose and cause a pulmonary embolism in the lung, a heart attack, or stroke)
  • Serious fracture
  • Tumors

Questions for diagnosing the cause of underarm pain

To diagnose your condition, your doctor or licensed health care practitioner will ask you several questions related to your underarm pain including:

  • How long have you had your underarm pain?
  • Do you have any other symptoms?
  • Do you use your arms frequently in daily activities?
  • Have you had a recent injury?
  • What makes your underarm pain feel better or worse?

What are the potential complications of underarm pain?

Underarm pain may simply go away with time. It may also respond to home remedies, such as cold compresses, or over-the-counter medications. Underarm pain may also be referred pain from the chest, which can be a sign of a serious heart condition.

Because underarm pain can be due to serious diseases, failure to seek treatment can result in serious complications and permanent damage. Once the underlying cause is diagnosed, it is important for you to follow the treatment plan that you and your health care professional design specifically for you to reduce the risk of potential complications including:

  • Heart failure (if underarm pain is due to heart attack)
  • Permanent loss of sensation
  • Permanent nerve damage (due to a pinched nerve), including paralysis
  • Pulmonary embolism (if deep venous thrombosis is present)
  • Severe discomfort or pain
  • Spread of cancer
  • Spread of infection


  1. Angina. National Heart Lung and Blood Institute Diseases and Conditions Index. http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/dci/Diseases/Angina/Angina_WhatIs.html.
  2. Hand/wrist/arm problems. FamilyDoctor.org. http://familydoctor.org/online/famdocen/home/tools/symptom/526.html.


What is underarm pain?

Underarm pain refers to pain of the underside of the arm or the armpit (axilla). Anyone can experience underarm pain, which can be the result of injury, infection or inflammation. Underarm pain may also be a type of referred pain, which is pain perceived far from the site of injury. For example, in the case of angina, which is chest pain caused by reduced blood flow to the heart, you may feel u... Read more about underarm painintroduction


What other symptoms might occur with underarm pain?

Underarm pain may accompany other symptoms, which vary depending on the underlying disease, disorder or condition.

Musculoskeletal symptoms that may occur along with underarm pain

Underarm pain may accompany other symptoms affecting the muscles, bones, tendons and cartilage including:

Medical Reviewer: Cynthia Haines, MD Last Annual Review Date: Aug 11, 2013 Copyright: © Copyright 2014 Health Grades, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Health Grades, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the HealthGrades User Agreement.

This Article is Filed Under: Bones, Joints and Muscles

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