Chest and upper back, left armpit pain

by Kelli
(Alabama)



Chest and upper back, left armpit pain; tingling right arm.


I've had pain under my left arm pit area for about 2 months. Also, my upper back has been popping a lot (between my shoulder blades). About 10 days ago my upper back around to the front of my chest started aching. I went to the doctor and he believed it was a strained muscle and put me on 800mg Ibuprofen; it has not helped at all.

On Friday I was boarding a plane and my right arm started tingling and my lower jaw became a little numb. I went straight to the ER and they ruled out heart issues. Chest rads, ECG and blood work was all normal. They gave me IV soul delta cortef, started me on Tramadol and recommended an MRI.

The soreness across my chest and back does not stop. If I take a deep breath my left armpit area hurts really bad. If I hold my left arm above my head and take a deep breath it doesn't hurt. I went back to the doctor today and they started me on 500 mg naproxen and have scheduled an MRI. I also have a mammogram scheduled for next week. I do have some small lumpy tissue in the left armpit area, but the doctor did an exam last week and thought it was normal breast tissue. Does this sound like a cervical issue?

Hello Kelli,
No, it doesn't sound like a cervical issue, and to be quite honest I'm not quite sure what; it doesn't all quite add up.

Pain on deep inspiration is suggestive of a rib issue; in the midback it's quite common. A 'sprung rib' in the colloquial but not if it's under the arm pit. No trauma? No possibility of a cracked rib? Coughing a lot recently?

If you run your fingers down the joint between the ribs and the breastbone, is one or more particularly tender? A lump just to the side of the breastbone? Or the collarbone-sternal joint; possibly Tietze's syndrome.

You did mean the right arm? The opposite side? Do any movements of your neck provoke the tingling in your right arm; precisely where in your arm is the tingling?

If you press on the rib under the armpit, is it very tender?

I'd pursue the breast cum lumpy tissue in the armpit first; if nothing comes of it, with a negative chest x-ray, I suggest a bone scan next. Ribs are enormously difficult to evaluate on plain film, particularly in the mid axial line.

Let me know what comes of it. I hope this contributes.

Dr B



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