Last reviewed by Editorial Team on August 13th, 2018.
Gallbladder Pain Location
Your gallbladder, which is also called the cholecyst, is a little pear shaped organ that is below your liver on the right side of your abdomen just under your ribcage. The main functions of your gallbladder are to store bile and help in the process of digestion. It is only about four centimeters in diameter and is hollow when completely dilated.
An adult’s gallbladder can hold approximately fifty milliliters of bile. When a person has gallbladder pain it is felt in the upper right side of your abdomen, in the middle of your chest and can radiate to your lower back but there are others who have felt the pain between their shoulder blades, especially the right shoulder blade.
If you have surgery to remove gallstones some people have complained of pain which is referred to as post-cholecystectomy syndrome. This can be repeated pain on the right side of your abdomen.
Symptoms of Gallbladder Pain
One of the main symptoms of gallbladder pain is constipation.
Other symptoms can include:
- Headaches, which usually occur mostly at night
- Feeling like you are full
- Burping or belching
- Bloating and gas
- Sometimes a fever and/or chills, especially if you have gallstones that are blocking a bile duct.
- Having stools that are light colored or chalky
You may also find it is difficult to digest foods that are rich in fat.
What does gallbladder pain feel like?
When you have gallbladder pain at first it feels like you just have severe indigestion or a little pain under your ribcage, especially after eating a large meal with a lot of fatty foods. You may even have severe gas but then in later stages you will start to feel sharp pains. It will usually start out as a slight discomfort and over several hours it can grow into severe pain that can last from five to fifteen hours. If the cause is gallbladder inflammation you could experience extreme pain in your upper right side of your abdomen and can last for several days.
Gallstones are the main cause of gallbladder pain, which is a hard mass of cholesterol that develops when your cholesterol levels in your bile are higher than normal. Your gallbladder pain could also be due to intolerance to certain foods that can cause allergic reactions. Some of the foods include dairy, highly-acidic foods, fatty meats, and eggs. Having liver disease can also cause gallbladder pain. If you have inflammation of your gallbladder referred to as cholecystitis it can also cause pain. There is also a condition called acalculous biliary pain which can cause pain in your upper right abdomen but tests done do not show any gallbladder stones. This medical condition is due to the improper functioning or blockage of your gallbladder.
In order to diagnosis what is causing your gallbladder pain your physician will do a physical examination and ask you what symptoms you are having, how long they last, how long you have had them, etc. If you are suffering from extreme pain you may have to go to the emergency room instead of waiting to see your physician.
Some of the diagnostic tests that may be done to determine what is causing your gallbladder pain can include:
- Liver function tests (LFI’s) – this is a blood test that can help show any evidence of a gallbladder disease.
- Doing a complete blood count to look at the different types of blood cells, especially the white blood cell. If there is a high count of white blood cells it could indicate an infection.
- Ultrasound testing – with this test sound waves are used to make a picture of your intra-abdominal organs, including your gallbladder, to look for any problems. This is the best test to find out what is causing your gallbladder pain.
- Abdominal x-ray – this test can help show any evidence of a gallbladder disease like gallstones.
- Hydroxy iminodiacetic acid – this is injected into you in order for the gallbladder to take in this radioactive material to measure the emptying function of your gallbladder.
There are many different ways that you can treat gallbladder pain at home but if the pain seems to become worse or is continual you should see your physician.
Some of the treatments you can do at home can include:
If you have a heating pad you can use it instead. Putting them on your upper abdomen will help give you relief from gallbladder pain. You need to do twenty to thirty minutes to help ease the pain.
Make sure that you are eating healthy and staying away from a diet that is rich in refined sugars, Trans fatty acids, and saturated fat. Instead you should follow a diet that is low in fats. Caffeinated and alcoholic beverages, eggs, and pork should be avoided as any of these can aggravate the pain. On your diet you can have skinless chicken in moderation, low fat milk, fresh fruits and leafy green vegetables. To bring down your bad cholesterol level you should make sure that you are including foods that are high in omega-3 essential fatty acids.
To help reduce the pain and improve the function of your gallbladder drink apple juice, beetroot juice, or pear juice two or three times each day.
Maintain a healthy weight
Being overweight can cause gallbladder pain so reduce your weight which in turn will help to reduce your bad cholesterol levels. To help with this do exercises that is low-impact like cycling, aerobics, and walking.
When you see your physician for gallbladder pain, some of the things that might be done can include:
You can take over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medication or your physician may give you a prescription for pain relief medication. If you have been diagnosed as cholecystitis being the cause of your gallbladder pain you will usually be given a prescription for an antibiotic to get rid of the infection. If you have been diagnosed with gallstones your physician may give you medications that contain bile acids to help dissolve cholesterol gallstones.
You may have to have a cholecystectomy, which is surgery to remove your gallstones if all other natural remedies and medication fail to improve the pain you are having. It is possible that the surgeon will remove your gallbladder to help prevent this problem from happening again. You can lead a normal life without your gallbladder. After surgery you will have to follow a strict diet which is a low-cholesterol, high-fiber, and low-fat vegetarian diet to help prevent any gastrointestinal complications.