What Causes Gallbladder Pain?

What is the gallbladder?

The gallbladder (gall bladder) is a small sac-shaped organ located under the liver. It stores bile made by the liver.

What are gallstones?

One of the most common causes of gallbladder pain is gallstones (also called gallstone disease, or cholelithiasis). Gallstones occur when cholesterol and other substances found in bile form stones. When the stone passes from the gallbladder into the small intestine or become stuck in the biliary duct it can cause pain. This is called biliary colic, otherwise known as a gallbladder attack.

If your gallbladder is inflamed it is usually caused by infection or injury to the gallbladder. You may feel pain due to the swelling that results from infection or trauma to the gallbladder.

Pain in your gallbladder can also be caused when bile backs up into the gallbladder. This causes the gallbladder to swell, and you may feel:

  • pain located in the ride side of your chest blow your rib cage,
  • pain in the back of your right shoulder blade, and
  • nausea, vomiting, or gas.

The pain may be sharp or dull and usually lasts several hours. This pain may happen especially after eating a greasy, fried, or fatty meal.

The pain of a gallbladder attack may resemble a heart attack. See your doctor immediately if you have any chest pain to get a proper diagnosis.

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Medically reviewed by John A. Daller, MD; American Board of Surgery with subspecialty certification in surgical critical care


UpToDate. Pathogenesis, clinical features, and diagnosis of acute cholecystitis.

University of Maryland Medical Center. Gallstones and gallbladder disease.

MedscapeReference.com. Cholelithiasis.