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Irritated Nerve
April 2003

Q. I am a 29-year-old female and have had a nagging pain under my left armpit for 5-6 weeks. No obvious lumps are felt. Sometimes my whole left arm aches and feels tingly. The pain is pretty constant. I have two small children who I lift also. Should I just let it go for a while or go see a doctor?

A. Pain, numbness, and tingling are often signs that a nerve is irritated. The main nerve bundle from the spine to the muscles of the arm travels right through the axilla (armpit), and can easily get irritated from trauma or a lot of activity such as child care. There are many minor conditions that can be the cause of numbness, so by all means call your doctor for an appointment. A simple physical exam may clarify the situation!

Your doctor may want to order some tests to determine the location and cause of the problem. If needed, tests might include x-rays to look for problems in the spine as the nerves originate here (examples: bone malalignment, arthritis) and possibly an EMG which examines nerve conduction (example: carpal tunnel syndrome in the wrist).

The treatment will depend on the results of your exam and any other tests establishing the diagnosis. A specialist in neurology can help with this evaluation if the situation persists.

http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/000593.htm

http://www.merck.com/pubs/mmanual/section14/chapter183/183f.htm

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