Got Back Pain After Gallbladder Surgery? Read This

While the chances of dying from gallbladder surgery are relatively low, it’s still possible to experience some side effects.

For instance, a lot of people experience pain after gallbladder surgery. What exactly causes it? As you’ll come to see in this article, the potential causes are many.

Many people begin to have back pain and/or stomach pain. This pain can either be chronic or acute. It’s also possible to have other symptoms like loss of appetite, diarrhea, and many others.

Usually these subside within 2-3 weeks, but sometimes they don’t. We’ll begin this article by talking about what the gallbladder is, followed by showing you some reasons for why you’re having this symptom.

Let’s get started!

What’s the Gallbladder?

Pain after gallbladder surgery

The gallbladder is a relatively small organ that sits in the upper right quadrant of the abdomen.

It’s tucked beneath the liver and is primarily responsible for storing bile.

The bile, which is made by the liver, is stored and then later used during digestion.

During digestion, the bile enters the digestive tract, where it helps break down fats.

There are many reasons for why people get gallbladder surgery. These include:

  • Polyps
  • Gallstones (most common)
  • Inflammation
  • Cancer
  • Cholecystitis

Gallstones are by far the most common reason why people get this procedure done. A lot of times, people will need to have their gallbladder removed altogether.

This is known as a cholecystectomy.

Unfortunately, these types of surgeries aren’t without risk. People can and do sometimes experience pain after gallbladder surgery.

This pain typically radiates between the belly, chest, and shoulder.

You might also experience nausea, diarrhea, and/or loss of appetite. The symptoms usually last between 2-3 weeks before going away completely.

However, in some cases, the pain doesn’t go away, in which case, you’ll need to see a doctor.

What Causes Pain After Gallbladder Surgery?

There’s no doubt that this can be a scary symptom. Let’s talk about some of the more common reasons why people experience it:

  • Digestive System Weakness: The most common cause is that the digestive system is temporarily weakened. When this happens, it can cause you to lose your appetite. When you don’t eat, you’ll begin to feel tired, which will make your symptoms even worse. It’s recommended that you follow a doctor-approved “post gallbladder removal diet”. Simply type it in Google and see what comes up. By eating the right foods, you’ll help your digestive system remain strong throughout the healing process.
  • Poor Posture: Believe it or not, poor posture is a relatively common reason why people feel pain after these types of surgeries. After the operation, some people will bend at their abdomen whenever their sitting or walking. Unfortunately, this causes them to also bend their shoulders, which creates an awkward body position. The shoulder pain that you’re experiencing could very likely be due to your poor posture. Focus on a good posture and your pain might go away (although it’s not a guarantee).
  • Leakage of Bile: Another complication that could arise once a gallbladder is removed is that bile begins to leak. The bile can leak into the abdominal area, which can lead to pain. The good news is that this is a rare complication that arises from such surgeries. While you shouldn’t rule it out yet, have comfort in the fact that it’s statistically unlikely. It’s more likely to be from digestive system weakness and/or poor posture.

Yet another possibility for back pain after gallbladder surgery is an abdominal cut. Remember that the gallbladder is located within the abdomen.

During surgery, the surgeon will make small incisions within the abdomen to help you heal quicker. Sometimes it’s simply a matter of time before the pain of these incisions go away.

Traces of Carbon Dioxide

Carbon dioxide gallbladder pain

Carbon dioxide left in the abdominal cavity after surgery can lead to pain.

In many surgeries, the surgeon will pump carbon dioxide into the cavity of the abdomen.

While it’s removed after the surgery, it’s possible for traces of carbon dioxide to remain behind.

This can lead to back pain as well as pain in the right side of your body. Why exactly does this happen?

It’s because the excess carbon dioxide causes bloating, which can compress nerves and cause pain.

It’s not the most common cause, but it’s still one to consider.

On a side note, remember that there are side effects associated with anesthesia, which include muscle pain and/or tightness.

Things like abdominal cramps, inflammation, and constipation can all lead to back pain as well.

It’s not recommended that you get worked up over something that’s probably not life threatening.

By making yourself anxious, you’ll slow down the healing process, compromise your immune system, and possibly make your symptoms worse.

Sphincter Spasms

The gallbladder sphincter is a small round muscle that sits at the open of the bile duct.

Just like any other muscle in the body, it’s capable of experiencing spasms.

This can be due to a variety of reasons, and can also lead to pain.

If you’re experiencing back pain after gallbladder surgery, and sphincter spasms are to blame, then you can get something called a sphincterotomy.

This is when the surgeon removes the gallbladder sphincter. Once removed, your symptoms should go away.

Difficulty Digesting Fats

As we mentioned earlier, the gallbladder is responsible for storing bile that can later be used to breakdown fats.

If your gallbladder gets removed, then you might have difficulty digesting fats.

This can lead to pain and/or discomfort. The solution? Go on low-fat diet for a few days to a few weeks and see if anything changes.

By eating fewer fats (and more proteins and carbohydrates instead), you’ll put less strain on your digestive system.

This means eliminating foods like meat, whole-fat milk, and other foods with a lot of fat.

Here’s a chart showing the difference, in fat, between everyday foods:

low fat diet after gallbladder surgery

Possible Serious Complications

There are a few serious complications that you should keep in mind. These include:

  • Small intestine injury
  • Infection
  • Internal bleeding
  • Gallstones left in abdominal cavity
  • Leakage of bile
  • Injured blood vessels, cystic duct, or bile duct

If you’re not producing enough bile, then your doctor might have you supplement with purified bile salts.

To help relieve your pain and discomfort, they might also put you on pain medication for a few weeks. Finally, you’ll need to switch your diet to a low-fat one as well.

Follow the instructions of your doctor and you should come out with minimal pain.

How Long is Recovery Time?

What’s the average recovery time for someone who’s gone through back pain after gallbladder surgery?

It depends on the age and health of the individual.

Some people can go through a surgery like this with minimal complications and pain, while others take much longer to heal.

Above all, remember that this article is for informative purposes only. If you have any dire questions that you need answered, consult your doctor.

They’ll be able to give you a more personalized answer. Be sure to share this article with anyone who’s just gone through this type of surgery!

Related questions

Dull Ache After Gallbladder Surgery

Upper Right Abdominal Pain 3 months after Cholecystectomy

Ask a Question: If you want to ask a medical doctor a question that hasn't been answered in one of our articles go to: Ask a Medical Doctor About your Symptoms

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8 Comments

  • Hello i had my gallbladder out 2014 had 1 attack 3 months ago also Monday this week. Had upper pain sweats breathing difficulty ended up in emergency. Prior to this happening I googled on what to eat I loss alot of weight from 58kilo to 46. I then was able to eat everything and anything again got my weight back. On Monday just gone I ate a pasty which tasted like still then had a burnt coffee and a peacan macadamia cake. I have had this food before not a burnt coffee thou but pasty I hadn’t. I don’t know if this caused my pain I also suffer with anxiety I worry about everything and anything. My tests came back scan normal bloods liver very high have to go back next week for more bloods. Now scared to eat anything and keep getting butterflies. Don’t know what to do i was going so good. 🙁 can someone help me with what to do apart from this im healthy xx

  • I had my gall bladder removed on 16th Jan 2018. I’ve had an nightmare of an experience. Its now almost 6 weeks post op and I am still in agony and on Tramadol, Omeprozole for constant back pain and burning and the surgeon put me on antibiotics as well. The Tramadol only deadens the pain, but the burning comes and goes all day long. I am in absolute agony. I’ve spent days at work crying. I’m worried I might lose my job because I am in so much pain and people have noticed. And they know I should have healed by now. I can’t live with this pain long term. I think something serious has gone wrong. And the surgeon is not taking me seriously enough. Nor is the GP who sent me to him. I think they want me to go away. I am afraid I am going to die from complications. Parts of my body are sore and tight and burning, and other parts are aching. Mostly around the right side under the ribs, behind the hips, mid centre back and under the right shoulder blade. I’m in Australia and I am worried the surgeon was not very good. My GP didn’t try very hard to find me someone reputable. He just picked him off a list. Big mistake.

    • I totally feel your pain. I had my surgery April 2017 2 days after surgery was rushed back to ER.tests done and all was clear. My Gp referee me to a surgeon who performed surgery based on what I told him. I’m in South Africa and now live on Citro Soda which was working magic previously tI’ll December 2017 when it just bounces back with no effect at all. I’ve tried a combination of diclofenac Adcodol and mybulens yet it gets worse and now goes on for a good 3 hrs.
      I really don’t know how to deal with this pain.

    • Could you have CRPS? Formally named RSD. Can happen after surgery/injury. I currently have had it for 2 years, burning, aches and pains. I also just had my gal bladder removed 3 days ago… much worse recovery than I expected. Google CRPS and good luck

  • I HAVE GALL BLADDER SURGERY FEB 2018. AFTER THE SURGERY I WAS FINE. TWO MONTHS LATER I AM HAVING DISCOMFORT. I AM HAVING A BUBBLE FEELING IN MT THROAT WHEN I DRINK ANYTHING AND ALSO A DULL FEELING IN MY ABDOMINAL AREA, BACK IS STARTING TO HURT. THE SURGEON TOLD ME TO TAKE PEPCID AC SO THAT IT COULD BREAK DOWN THE ACIDS IN MY TUMMY. I HAVE A DOCTOR’S APPOINTMENT TODAY TO SEE WHAT IS REALLY GOING ON. HOPE IT IS SOMETHING THAT MEDICATION CAN FIX.

  • Watkins. I am similar to you, I had my gall bladder out Febuary 21st 2018 after an attack of pancreatitis caused by gall stones. I have been so good since up until now. Ate a healthy diet as I have also been told I have a mild fatty lIver, called non alcaholic fatty liver desese. So I have lost weight and excersise, and started to feel great. But a couple of weeks ago I had a treat of fish and a few chips. Oh my did I suffer thought I would end up with pancreatitis again. Terrible back pain which is getting better after accupuncture tratment. But I now have discomfort in my tummy most of the time just like before my operation. So don’t understand why.

  • I had GB surgery exactly one month ago. I am having pain on my right side under my breast. This pain radiates to my back. And now…I am having bad back pain right between my shoulder blades. So bad, I have to go sit down. It usually starts if I have been standing for awhile. Is anyone else experiencing this type of pain? If so, what do you do to relieve it and does it eventually go away? Thank you!

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