Stabbing Underarm Pain

The underarm is made up of dozens of lymph nodes, which assist the body in freeing itself of infections. The underarms or armpits are very sensitive, which is why underarm pain can be excruciating. The pain can either originate from the underarms themselves or from a different part of your body. Pain that is felt in one area of your body, but originates from another is called referred pain. Referred pain is commonly felt in the underarms; however, there are direct causes as well.

Pain felt in the underarms can be described as stabbing, shooting, knife-like, stinging, or piercing. Additional symptoms include pain in shoulders or arms, swelling, redness, tender or warm to the touch, blisters, bumps, or rashes.

The causes of pain in the armpits can be for a simple reason or a much more serious reason. For instance, the type of deodorant you use may be affecting the sensitive skin located in the underarm region. On the other hand, armpit pain is an early sign of breast cancer in women. The most common potential causes include:

  • Irritant Contact Dermatitis: When a rash, swelling, or redness appears in your underarm. This inflammation is due to a material that has irritated the skin upon contact, such as deodorant, soap or even air.
  • Allergic Contact Dermatitis: This is less common than irritant contact dermatitis. It is when the skin has an allergic reaction to something after contact. The result is generally redness and bumps.
  • Psoriasis: This is an autoimmune disorder, which causes redness to appear. It can happen on other parts of the body, but it is most common in the underarms. The redness usually has a scaly look to it.
  • Ringworm: When a circular rash appears (there is no actual worm).
  • Boil: When one hair follicle becomes infected, a large red bump appears around it.
  • Abscess: This is the collection of pus in a concentrated area.
  • Acanthosis Nigricans: A person with this disorder may notice brown or black spots on their armpits, as well as other warm, moist areas of the body. These regions may include between or under the breasts, the groin, as well as other areas.
  • Yeast Infection: When yeast (Candida) infects the skin and causes redness, sometimes accompanied by white spots.
  • Axillary Lymphadenopathy: When one or more lymph nodes become swollen. A potential cause of this is cancer, so a visit to the doctor is crucial.
  • Folliculitis: When one or more hair follicles become inflamed.
  • Erythrasma: This is a skin infection which causes brown spots to appear.
  • Hidradenitis Suppurativa: This condition causes red bumps to appear.
  • Intertrigo: When the skin becomes irritated and infected. Common symptoms include redness, a burning sensation, and itchiness.

Due to the possibility of breast cancer, armpit pain must be taken seriously. It is recommended that you visit your doctor if the pain persists for more than a few days, the pain is severe, or there are additional symptoms such as vomiting or a fever. One thing you may try at home is applying a skin moisturizer. Moisturizer will help eliminate the dryness of the armpit region, which is caused by many of the mentioned conditions.


This website does not provide medical advice as it is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on this website. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.