Can Gallbladder Pain Affect your Back Only? Gastroenterologist explains.

Our content is not intended nor recommended as a substitute for medical advice by your doctor. Use for informational purposes only.

It is uncommon for gallbladder pain to affect your back only. The typical gallbladder pain location is often the upper middle and upper-right abdomen.

1. What is the typical gallbladder pain location?

Gallbladder pain can be due to complicated or uncomplicated gallstone disease. Thy typical gallbladder pain of the uncomplicated gallstone has the following characteristics:

Biliary colic.

Description

1. Site

Usually, the upper-middle or the upper-right quadrant of your abdomen

2. Spread

– The pain may spread to the back of the right shoulder or between shoulder blades.

3. Character

Constant builds up then disappears gradually.

4. Duration

At least 30 minutes. It may last up to 6 hours.

5. Relation to food

– Triggered by foods (especially fatty food and large meals.
– However, it can start spontaneously.

6. NOT related to:

Movement, bowel movements, nor the passage of flatus.

7. Nausea

Often Present, severe.

8- Commonly associated symptoms

  • Vomiting, sweating during the attack.
  • Jaundice, dark urine, and itching if there is an obstruction.
  • Fever if there is an infection

Gallbladder pain location is typically in the upper-middle stomach area or the upper right abdominal quadrant. The pain comes and goes in attacks (often related to heavy meals). 

Back pain from gallbladder attacks is often located between the shoulder blades or behind the right shoulder (behind the tip of the right scapula) (reference).

Less common sites of gallbladder pain (biliary colics) include chest pain and lower abdominal pain. 

Learn more about the usual and unusual gallbladder symptoms.

2. Can gallbladder pain be in your back only?

It is not typical for gallbladder pain to affect your back only without abdominal pain. Back pain is a site of spread (radiation) and is not the primary site of gallbladder pain.

However, in few cases of biliary colics, back pain can be more noticeable than the upper-right and the upper-mid abdominal pain. feeling a little discomfort or pain in the upper abdomen will make back pain from gallstones more prevalent. 

After reviewing the literature, we couldn’t find evidence suggestive for back-only biliary colic. However, I see it in clinical practice (but very infrequent).

Whether the back pain is due to gallbladder pain or not depends on the context of other associated symptoms. The signs with and the signs against gallbladder pain are discussed below.

3. How to know if back pain is (gallbladder pain)?

The following symptoms and signs are suggestive of gallbladder pain. when you find one or more of them, the likelihood of gallbladder pain increases.

Consider gallbladder pain as a cause of back pain if (reference):

  • Being diagnosed with gallstone disease.
  • The back pain starts after meals (often starts within an hour from the meal).
  • The pain comes and goes (lasting anytime between 30 minutes and 6 hours.
  • The pain then resolves but can come back again within hours, days or weeks.
  • the back pain is behind the right shoulder or between shoulder blades.
  • The pain increases steadily over about 10-30 minutes and then resolves gradually.
  • During the attack, the pain is severe, dull, and constant (not in short colics).
  • The pain doesn’t improve with passing stool, flatus, or vomiting.
  • The back pain is associated with intense nausea and/or vomiting.
  • Signs of complicated gallstone disease such as yellowish eye whites, dark urine, fever, or persistent vomiting.