Gallbladder pain is a broad term which is used to represent any pain caused due to some or the other issue related to the gallbladder. Now this can be a pain due to gallstones, pancreatitis, biliary colic, cholecystitis, and so on. This is because gallbladder is connected to many organs and ducts inside the body such as liver, cystic duct, bile duct, pancreatic duct and GI tract or the duodenum. When there are so many things attached to gallbladder, the question arises where gallbladder pain is actually and what does gallbladder pain feel like! Let’s try to explore and get the answers to these questions.
What does gallbladder pain feel like?
It feels different to different people. Yes, gallbladder pain varies according to the disease which causes it. In fact, some people may never have pain despite having gallstones! But when this gallbladder pain occurs, some people may experience it in their right upper abdomen and for some others, this pain may radiate to the back and as far as their shoulders. But the interesting fact is, this variation in gallbladder pain helps the doctor diagnose the actual disease behind your gallbladder pain! To understand how this gallbladder pain feels like, one has to point out the exact location where the pain occurs. Now, based on this pain’s location and other accompanying symptoms, you can tell what disease is causing the gallbladder pain. So, let’s check the symptoms of gallbladder pain to understand how this pain feels like.
Gallbladder Pain Symptoms
The symptoms of the diseases that cause gallbladder pain have been described here that also tell you what does this pain feel like.
Cholecystitis (Inflammation of Gallbladder)
Cholecystitis can be understood as inflammation of the gallbladder. It often occurs when a gallstone obstructs a duct in your gallbladder. The pain due to cholecystitis is severe and steady. It is there in your right upper abdomen. Sometimes, the pain gets so severe that it travels to your right shoulder or to your back. Other than pain in these locations, other symptoms of cholecystitis include sweating, nausea, vomiting, fever, chills, bloating and tenderness in abdomen, especially when you touch or press there.
Pancreatitis (Inflammation of the Pancreas)
Pancreas is a large and an important organ situated behind your stomach. It produces digestive enzymes. When it gets swollen, often due to gallstones that block the pancreatic duct, it causes acute pain and other symptoms. This pain is felt at your upper abdomen that may radiate to your back. The other symptoms also resemble with those of cholecystitis like tenderness in abdomen, nausea and vomiting. This pain due to pancreatitis can be felt more after having meals.
Cholangitis (Infection of Biliary System)
Also known as ascending cholangitis or acute cholangitis, this condition is mostly caused by a bacterial infection, often when the bile duct gets blocked by a gallstone or tumor. This duct carries bile (the liquid made by liver to help digest food) from your liver to the gallbladder and intestines. You can feel this pain in the upper right side or upper middle part of your abdomen. The pain here may or may not be constant. It may come and go. Sometimes this pain is sharp and at other times, it is a dull pain. This pain, sometimes, can also feel like cramps. Just like some other gallbladder pains, the pain due to cholangitis may also radiate to the back or below your right shoulder. Other symptoms include fever, jaundice, low blood pressure, as well as confusion. This is a serious condition which is sometimes attended as medical emergency.
Can gallbladder cause back pain?
This is a common question asked by people who suffer from gallbladder pain and those who cannot differentiate between spinal lower back pain and the pain at back caused due to gallbladder diseases. The answer is both, no and yes.
No, when you don’t have any other pain, especially in your abdomen but when it is only in your back. Also when no other symptoms like vomiting and nausea etc. accompany your pain, it is most probably an actual back pain caused by some issue in your spine or the back muscles.
Yes, it can cause back pain and you can understand it very well if you read the gallbladder pain symptoms above. In most of the cases, the pain originates somewhere from the abdomen and travels to either your back or to your right shoulder.
So, it is a gallbladder back pain if it occurs simultaneously with abdominal pain and other symptoms of gallbladder diseases. And it is not a gallbladder back pain if it is only there in your back and nowhere else. In any case, it is not recommended that you diagnose whether your back pain is a gallbladder pain in back or not. Leave it to your doctor. Get yourself checked thoroughly because pain in abdomen, chest area, back and shoulder, all at once may indicate something serious.
Gallbladder Pain Remedies
Now the question arises, how to relieve gallbladder pain! While it is always advisable to see your doctor and get your gallbladder diseases treated with due medical attention, there are certain home remedies that can give you relief from gallbladder pain. So, what are these remedies for gallbladder pain relief? Let’s find out!
Heat Pack Remedy for Gallbladder Pain Relief
For many pains, this is the ultimate remedy, a heat pack. It is no different for gallbladder pain. It gives almost instant relief from the pain.
- Heating pad or a heat pack
- Place the cloth over your skin where you are feeling pain. This ensures that the heating pad doesn’t touch your skin directly and saves you from any type of burns.
- Now place the pad or the hot pack over this cloth and rest for about 20-30 minutes.
- If you cannot tolerate it for that long, take frequent breaks. For example, remove it after every 5-10 minutes.
- Do this for about half an hour to get relief from gallbladder pain.
Apple Cider Vinegar for Gallbladder Pain Relief
This is one of the best remedies to relieve gallbladder pain. In many cases, the gallbladder pain attack occurs after eating, In such cases, apple cider vinegar can help relieve the pain. Apple cider vinegar contains beneficial enzymes and acids that are good for digesting foods. There is one more reason why apple cider vinegar might be so effective in relieving gallbladder pain and this is the component pectin in apple cider vinegar. Pectin helps absorb toxins and flush them out of the system.
- Apple cider vinegar- 1 tbsp
- Fruit juice (apple or orange juice etc. may also use lemon juice)- 1 glass
- Add the apple cider vinegar to your glass of juice
- Mix well and have it.
- If it works for you, you may expect to see your pain go in about 20-30 minutes.
Make Flaxseed Tea to Relieve Gallbladder Pain
While I could not find any scientific study saying flaxseed can make your gallbladder pain go away, I did find many reviews about this flaxseed tea given by people who had been suffering from gallbladder pain since years. One of them said, because flax seeds are rich in Omega 3s, they might help due to the anti-inflammatory effects. As we had read earlier, inflammation of gall bladder as well as pancreas cause gallbladder pain. So, this might hold true. Some say that flaxseed oils make the bile thin and coat the stomach. This might be this soothing effect that relieves the pain there.
- Flaxseed- 1-2 tbsp
- Water- 2 cups
- Cinnamon stick- 1-2 inch piece Or powder- 1/4 tsp
- Honey (optional)- 1-2 tsp
- Bring the water to a boil.
- Add flaxseed to this boiling water and lower the heat
- Add cinnamon to this
- Simmer it for 10 minutes
- Cover and let it sit for another 10 minutes.
- Strain and add honey if you want this to be a little sweet. The cinnamon, however, gives some flavor to the otherwise tasteless flaxseed tea.
- Have this tea a couple of times a day.
- Gradually, your gallbladder pain attacks would subside.
Baking Soda and lemon Juice Remedy
Gallbladder pain is related to disruption in bile system. Because bile is an alkaline fluid and it is not working effectively inside your digestive system, there might be an acidic environment there that may give rise to pain. You may thus consider having some alkalizing solution like the one made with baking soda and lemon juice. Many people get relief from gallbladder pain after only 10-15 minutes when they have this juice.
- Lemon- 1
- Baking soda- ½ tsp -1 tsp
- Water- 1 glass
- Squeeze the lemon into a glass to get its fresh juice.
- Now add the baking soda. This will make it fizz.
- Once the fizz stops, add water to the lemon juice and baking soda.
- Have this twice a day, in the morning and at night before going to sleep. This is only when you experience frequent bouts of gallbladder pain. If it’s a onetime occurrence, just have a glass of this juice when pain occurs.
Peppermint Tea for Gallbladder Pain Relief
Peppermint relieves spasms of the smooth muscle lining in the stomach, gallbladder and bile ducts. It is not only a good remedy for gallbladder pain but also for dissolving gallstones. This is due to its component called terpene that is said to have gallstone-dissolving effect. So, if you suffer from gallbladder pain due to gallstones, here’s the remedy for you.
- Peppermint leaves (dried)- 1 tsp
- Water- 1- ½ cup
- Honey- 1-2 tsp
- Boil the water.
- Add peppermint leaves to the boiling water.
- Lower the heat and simmer for about 10 minutes.
- Strain, add honey and have the tea when it is still tolerably warm.
- It is better to have this peppermint tea in between meals. This would also help with your digestion.
Dandelion Herbal Remedy for Gallbladder Pain
Dandelion is a herb which is generally considered good for the liver and kidneys. When a herbal tea is made with this herb, it has the potential to cure jaundice, gall stones, constipation and upset stomach. There is a compound called taraxacin in dandelion which assists bile excretion from liver.
- Dandelion root (dried)- 1 tsp
- Hot water- 1 cup
- Honey- 1 tsp
- Add the herb in the hot water.
- Cover and let it steep for 5-8 minutes.
- Strain and add honey.
- Have 3-4 cups of this dandelion tea everyday.
Milk Thistle for Gallbladder Detoxification
Milk thistle is helpful in detoxifying liver and gallbladder. Because it can positively affect inflammation, many people find this herb to be soothing for gallbladder pain. Silymarin component in milk thistle stimulates bile production which flushes out the toxins.
- Milk thistle seeds- 1 tbsp
- Water- 2-3 cups
- Crush the herb seeds
- Boil the water
- Add the crushed milk thistle seeds to the boiling water and simmer for 5 minutes.
- Turn off the heat, cover and let it steep for another 10-20 minutes.
- Strain and have this tea 2-3 times a day.
Precaution: Those suffering from allergies to ragweed or having a history of hormone-sensitive cancers should exercise precaution when taking milk thistle.
Pickle Juice Relieves Gallbladder Pain
Some people have had this experience of pickle juice miraculously curing their gallbladder pain in a matter of about 10-15 minutes! What goes with this is the fact that pickle juice has been traditionally used to cure cramps. So, logic says, if you have this cramp like pain in or around your gallbladder, you may try to have pickle juice to relieve this pain. Pickle juice, anyway, contains sodium and vinegar. When vinegar is a good remedy for gallbladder pain, pickle juice might also work just because vinegar is present in there!
- Regular pickle juice- ¼ – ½ cup
- When you experience a gallbladder pain attack, have pickle juice.
- Start with having only ¼ cup of this juice.
- If it works, you’ll feel your pain settling down.
- If needed, have some more but don’t have a large amount of it. The sodium in it can affect your health negatively. Never take more than half a cup of pickle juice.
Beet Juice for Gallbladder Pain Relief
Beets are said to heal gallbladder and liver issues. They make the bile thin. For relieving gallbladder pain, you may eat beets or drink its juice. In fact, you can also take beet supplements available in the drug stores.
- Beetroot- 2
- Apples- 2
- Lemon- 1
- Ginger- 1 inch piece
- Wash and peel beetroot, apples and ginger.
- Chop them in pieces.
- Place them in the juicer and make their juice.
- Cut the lemon in two halves and squeeze out its juice.
- Add this to your beetroot apple juice.
- Have it immediately.
- If you suffer from frequent bouts of gallbladder pain, have a cup of this juice everyday for few weeks.
Castor Oil Pack for Gallbladder Pain Relief
This is grandma’s remedy but very effective to relieve gallbladder pain. This oil neutralizes inflammation and perhaps that’s why, it is so effective when it comes to find relief from pain in gallbladder.
- Castor oil (cold pressed)
- Soak the cloth in the castor oil
- Squeeze out the excess oil from the cloth.
- Now place the cloth over your bare skin where you have gallbladder pain.
- If you feel like, you can also place a hot water bottle after spreading a plastic cover over your castor oil pack.
- Let the pack sit there for about 20-30 minutes.
- Do it 3-4 times a week only. Give a break of 1-2 days after every 4 days.
Changes in Diet for Gallbladder Pain Relief
When you suffer from gallbladder diseases, your digestion doesn’t work well. You need to change your diet in order to relieve any discomfort associated with gallbladder issues. Fatty and rich foods don’t get digested properly and are one of the major causes behind gallbladder pain. Here are some diet tips for you to relieve gallbladder pain.
- Avoid having fatty foods. Cook food in minimum oil and avoid having butter etc.
- Avoid having commercially available baked goods like cookies, crackers, cakes, fries, processed foods, and margarine etc. The trans fatty acids in them may trigger gallbladder pain.
- Avoid having refined foods like white breads, pastas, and sugar.
- Avoid having possible food allergens like dairy products including milk, cheese, ice cream as well as gluten laden foods as wheat, soy, preservatives and chemical food additives.
- Have more antioxidant rich fruits like blueberries, cherries, and vegetables like tomatoes, squash and bell peppers.
- Reduce consumption of proteins like those found in red meat, cold water fish, tofu and beans.
- Have green tea.
- Eat fiber rich food like flax meal. You may also have psyllium husk.
- Quit smoking and reduce alcohol intake.
All these dietary precautions and other remedies for gallbladder pain will help you in focusing more on curing the disease behind your gallbladder pain instead of dealing with the pain all the time.