Can Gallbladder Problems Cause Back Pain?

Reviewed on 8/31/2020

What Is the Function of the Gallbladder?

Gallbladder pain may sometimes feel like an ache in the mid to lower back.
Gallbladder pain may sometimes feel like an ache in the mid to lower back.

The gallbladder is a pear-shaped organ found under the liver that stores bile, a fluid that helps the body break down the fat in foods you eat. 

What Are Gallstones? 

Gallstones (cholelithiasis) are small stones that form inside the gallbladder that can range in size from tiny specks to up to 6 inches long, as large as the entire gallbladder. Most are smaller than 1-inch. 

There are two types of gallstones:

What Are Symptoms of Gallstones?

Symptoms of gallstones may include:

A gallbladder attack happens when a gallstone blocks a bile duct, causing severe, stabbing pain in the belly that can last hours. Symptoms of a gallbladder attack include:

  • Severe, stabbing belly pain  
  • Abdominal tenderness
  • Back or shoulder pain
  • Pain after eating 
  • Chest pain
  • Fever or chills
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Tea-colored urine and light-colored stools
  • Yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes (jaundice)

What Causes Gallbladder Pain?

Causes of gallbladder pain include:

  • Gallstones (also called gallstone disease, or cholelithiasis) occur when cholesterol and other substances found in bile form stones. When stones pass from the gallbladder into the small intestine or get stuck in the biliary duct it can cause pain. This is called biliary colic, or a “gallbladder attack.” 
    • The pain of a gallbladder attack may resemble a heart attack. See your doctor right away if you have chest pain. 
  • An inflamed gallbladder (cholescystitis) is usually caused by infection or injury of the gallbladder that results in swelling and sometimes pain. 
  • Bile backing up into the gallbladder can cause the gallbladder to swell, and people may feel pain in the ride side of the chest blow the rib cage, pain in the back of the right shoulder blade, and nausea, vomiting, or gas. 
    • Pain may be sharp or dull and can last several hours. 
    • Pain may occur especially after eating a fried, greasy, or fatty meal. 
  • Gallbladder polyps
  • Gallbladder rupture
  • Gallbladder cancer
  • Acalculous gallbladder disease or gallbladder dyskinesia


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Reviewed on 8/31/2020
Medscape Medical Reference