Gallbladder Pain: Cause, Symptoms, & Treatment

Gallbladder pain can be a real nuisance. Fortunately, you can do something about it. Often, a simple change in diet can help to alleviate the pain. However, in severe cases, the victim may require medical attention. A surgical procedure that involves removing this organ may be necessary to get some respite.

In this article, we discuss what gallbladder pain is, what can cause it, treatment, and preventive measures that one can take to avoid gallbladder pain.

What is Gallbladder Pain?

The gallbladder’s function is to store bile made by the liver. Bile comes from the liver, which the gallbladder stones hold until they are required for digestion. Bile is a greenish-yellow liquid that helps break down food and digest fats.

In its pear-shaped form, the gallbladder lies beneath the liver on the right side of the upper abdomen. It has a narrow neck that connects it to the common bile duct that leads to the small intestine.

After eating a fat-rich meal, the stomach secretes a hormone called cholecystokinin. This hormone tells the gallbladder to contract and release bile into the small bowel. Bile then mixes with the fats from your food as it passes through your intestines, allowing for easier digestion.

Bile can, however, sometimes start to build up and become gallbladder sludge as the components of bile (specifically, cholesterol and bilirubin). The build-up of substances can result in small, pebble-like stones called Gallstones.

Gallstones can prevent the gallbladder from releasing bile. The gallbladder begins to fill up with bile when stones stop bile flow.

As a result, the gallbladder swells and inflames, leading to infection and poor blood flow. Gallbladder pain occurs due to cholecystitis, which is a medical condition.

The following are the characteristics of cholecystitis pain:

  • usually affects the right side of the upper abdomen
  • radiating pain to the right shoulder blade and back
  • in the evenings or after eating
  • becomes worse when you take a deep breath
  • it occurs suddenly and often intensely

Gallbladder pain may occur along with other symptoms like:

  • nausea and vomiting
  • fever and chills
  • fatigue and weakness
  • loss of appetite
  • bloating

You or anyone you know who experiences these symptoms should seek immediate medical attention. Prompt treatment can prevent the condition from becoming a severe health condition.

Treatment for Gallbladder Pain: What Can I Do to Relieve the Pain?

The treatment for gallbladder pain will depend on the pain level a person is experiencing and the likelihood of an infection.

Home remedies

Gallbladder pain can be a very uncomfortable experience. However, there are a few home remedies that you can try to help relieve the pain.

One is to drink plenty of water. This will help flush the gallbladder and ease the pain.

Another remedy is to eat light, bland foods such as toast or soup. You must avoid iced drinks and foods that are spicy or fatty. Alcohol can also irritate the gallbladder.

Some people have found relief by putting a warm cloth over their abdomen.

Apple cider can also help with the pain. It is a proven natural remedy for gallbladder problems.


Doctors may find it safer to remove the gallbladder in severe gallbladder conditions instead of treating the symptoms. A gallbladder that has developed an infection can rupture or perforate, leaking its contents into the abdomen.

A surgeon can perform cholecystectomy or gallbladder removal as a laparoscopic operation (minimally invasive) or as open surgery. When a cholecystectomy takes place as quickly as possible, recovery and outcome are usually enhanced.

A doctor may also recommend percutaneous transhepatic gallbladder drainage if a patient is unlikely to withstand surgery.

The procedure, also known as biliary drainage, consists of imaging the liver and inserting a small stent to facilitate bile drainage. As a result, you can help prevent unwanted side effects, such as jaundice, by reducing bile build-up in the gallbladder.


Prescription medication may help people who are not candidates for gallbladder surgery, usually because of poor health. The doctor may give antibiotics to treat a gallbladder that is infected. This reduces gallbladder pain and the risk of infection.

Your physician may also prescribe ursodiol to treat gallbladder pain. This medication functions as a “bile acid sequestrant” that can help dissolve gallstones. Fatigue, headaches, nausea, and weight gain are possible side effects of this medication. Doctors also prescribe this medication to treat cirrhosis.

When Should I See a Doctor?

If you experience the following symptoms, it is crucial to seek immediate medical attention:

  • Gallbladder pain that awakens you from sleep
  • Pain in your upper right abdomen and shoulder
  • Nausea with vomiting
  • fever
  • bloating


An individual suffering from gallbladder problems may experience pain in the right upper quadrant of their abdomen. Gallstones are usually the cause of this pain. Changes in diet or medication may help relieve the symptoms in some cases.

However, for those who experience persistent symptoms, doctors can surgically remove the gallbladder to prevent further complications.

After recovery, people without gallbladders can live everyday, productive lives.