Sharp pain under the left armpit is a common symptom that can have several causes. This article will list common causes of sharp pain under the left armpit and provide information about diagnosing and treating this condition.
Anatomy of the armpit
The armpit is a complex region of the body that houses various types of tissues, including skin, fat, lymph nodes, blood vessels, and nerves. The primary muscles involved are the pectoralis major, latissimus dorsi, and several muscles of the rotator cuff.
Causes of sharp pain under the left armpit
One of the following disease or conditions can cause a sharp pain under the left armpit.
1. Musculoskeletal conditions
Musculoskeletal conditions are the most common causes of sharp pain under the armpit.
Strains or sprains: Overuse or trauma can cause strains to the muscles (pectoralis, deltoids, latissimus dorsi) that encompass the armpit. Sprains of nearby joints such as the shoulder can also result in sharp pain.
Diagnosis: Physical examination and patient history are usually enough to diagnose strains and sprains. Imaging, like MRI or ultrasound, can be used to confirm the diagnosis and rule out other causes.
Treatment: Rest, ice, compression, and elevation of the injury site are initial treatment. Some severe cases will need physical therapy, pain medication, and even surgery.
2. Nerve-related conditions
Conditions that affect the nerves can cause sharp pain in the armpit.
Intercostobrachial neuralgia (inte8xrco8xsto8xbra8xchi8xal neu8xral8xgi8xa): This condition results from damage or irritation of the intercostobrachial nerve, which runs across the armpit.
Diagnosis: Nerve conduction tests, electromyography (EMG), and imaging studies can be used to diagnose this condition.
Treatment: Treatment includes nerve blocks, physical therapy, and medications such as anticonvulsants and antidepressants, which can help control nerve pain.
3. Infections or inflammation
Infections or inflammation in the armpit can cause sharp pain.
Hidradenitis Suppurativa (Hidr8xade8xnit8xis Supp8xur8xati8xva): This is a chronic condition that causes pea-sized to marble-sized lumps under the skin; these lumps can be painful.
Diagnosis: A dermatologist can usually diagnose this condition by looking at the skin.
Treatment: Treatment includes antibiotics, anti-inflammatory drugs, corticosteroids, or hormonal therapy. In severe cases, surgery is necessary.
4. Cardiac conditions
Sharp pain under the left armpit can sometimes be a sign of a heart-related issue.
Angina: Insufficient oxygen to the heart muscle, often due to blocked arteries, can cause pain that radiates to the left arm and left armpit.
Diagnosis: Electrocardiogram (ECG), blood tests for cardiac enzymes, stress tests, and coronary angiography are diagnostic tools.
Treatment: Treatment methods range from medications (aspirin, nitroglycerin) to procedures like angioplasty or bypass surgery.
Epidemiology and prevalence
Pain under the left armpit is a common symptom, with the specific prevalence dependent on the underlying cause.
Musculoskeletal conditions, such as strains and sprains, are quite common. National Health Interview Survey shows that approximately 25 million adults in the U.S. reported having pain lasting longer than 24 hours each month.
Regarding cardiac conditions, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that every year, about 805,000 Americans experience a heart attack, which can sometimes present as pain under the left armpit.
Hidradenitis suppurativa is less common but still significant, affecting about 1%-4% of the global population, according to the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology.
Recent medical research
A great deal of research is being conducted on the causes and treatment of pain under the left armpit. For instance, a 2022 study in the “Journal of Neural Transmission” examined the effectiveness of different treatment methods for intercostobrachial neuralgia, showing promising results for the use of nerve blocks and physiotherapy.
A 2023 study in the “European Heart Journal” demonstrated that AI algorithms could accurately predict the risk of a heart attack based on subtle signs, like slight discomfort under the armpit, indicating the potential future direction of diagnostics.