Gallbladder Pain

Gallbladder pain happens for a variety of reasons. Usually, it’s related to the consumption of foods, which are high in fat.

Gallbladder Function

The gallbladder is a small organ that is located behind your liver. It’s responsible for storing bile that’s produced in the liver. Before eating, your gallbladder is about the size of a small apple and filled with bile. When you eat, your gallbladder releases bile, which aids in the digestion of fats. When your gallbladder is not functioning properly, it can cause a variety of symptoms.
Gallbladder Pain

Pain in the gallbladder can be attributed to a variety of causes. The most common causes of gallbladder pain include gallstones, cholecystitis, pancreatitis, and biliary colic. While symptoms can vary in duration and intensity, stereotypical gallbladder pain is located in the right, upper quadrant with persistent or intermittent to the back.

Causes Gallbladder Pain

Depending on the cause, discomfort felt due to gallbladder malfunction can vary. There are several contributors to gallbladder pain, with the most common reviewed below.

Biliary Colic

Biliary colic is one of the most common forms of gallbladder pain. It’s typically due to duct blockage, which is intermittent. The pain is often described as sudden in nature, occurring in the right, upper abdomen. Someone suffering biliary colic may also experience pain in the epigastric area. Pain can radiate to the shoulder and upper back. Feelings of nausea and vomiting are also very common.


Cholecystitis is the medical form of gallbladder inflammation. This happens when the gallbladder becomes inflamed and stops functioning normally. Pain is usually felt in the right, upper quadrant of the abdomen with possible radiation to the back or shoulder.

People suffering from cholecystitis may have abdominal tenderness, fevers, chills, nausea and even vomiting. They might also experience excessive bloating and gas. This type of gallbladder discomfort tends to last longer than biliary colic.

Acute Cholecystitis

Similar to chronic cholecystitis, acute cholecystitis comes on rapidly after eating a meal. Symptoms can include fevers, chills, nausea, and tenderness in the abdomen with radiation to the back. People with acute cholecystitis typically present with a positive Murphy’s sign.


Pancreatitis: Gallstones formed in the gallbladder can block the biliary duct, causing inflammation of the pancreas. Pancreatitis usually presents with pain in the upper abdomen or epigastric area with radiation to the back and pain with eating. Some people also experience nausea and vomiting. Pancreatitis is a serious condition that requires prompt medical intervention.

Diagnosis and Treatment

Diagnosing gallbladder dysfunction is done by both manual and radiographic examination. Your physician may order an ultrasound to examine your gallbladder, pancreas and biliary tree. Bloodwork looking for elevation in your lipase, analyze and white count can also help make a definite diagnosis.

If diagnosed with gallbladder disease, there are several treatment options. If your gallbladder is only mildly inflamed, your physician may recommend a watch and wait for approach, in addition to a modified diet. If findings are acute, or if a blockage is found in the biliary ducts, surgical intervention may be warranted.