Upper back pain after Gall Bladder removed

This post is a response by a doctor to a question one of our community members asked.

Katy Asks:

I had gall bladder removed 3 years ago and since then I have had upper back pain across where my bra is. Never had it before I had surgery.

Dr Alejandro’s reply:

Hello Katy,

Although possible, it would be rare that the symptoms you have been experiencing are related to your gall bladder removal surgery (cholecystectomy). This is mostly because the period of time that has passed since your surgery is quite long.

However, a possible explanation related to gall bladder removal is postcholecystectomy syndrome (PCS), which is a term that describes the presence of symptoms after cholecystectomy. These symptoms can represent either the continuation of symptoms thought to be caused by gallbladder pathology or the development of new symptoms normally attributed to the gallbladder. Symptoms of PCS include back pain. Up to 75% of patients have good-to-fair relief of pain on long-term follow-up. This could likely be your diagnosis if you also have been having digestive symptoms (bloating, diarrhea, gas).

Nevertheless, I strongly think that your upper back pain is not related to your surgery. One of the main causes of it is bad posture, which may be related to specific jobs, hobbies or sleeping postures. Being out of shape or being overweight may also cause upper back pain, since more strain is being put on the back. The stronger the muscles in your back, shoulder, and abdomen, the lower your chance of injury and thereby, back pain.

Another possible explanation is myofascial pain syndrome, which is a chronic (an ongoing) pain disorder, usually triggered after a muscle has contracted over and over. It may also be related to specific job or a hobby that requires the same repeated motion.

A herniated disc can also explain your upper back pain. When the area around the disc is damaged, the cushioning material pushes out between the vertebrae and can press on spinal nerves, which then causes back pain, which can be irradiated to other parts of your body.

The only way to conclude a diagnosis is taking a full medical history and a proper medical examination, which can only be made if you visit a doctor. In the meantime, you should start wearing back support clothing (including support belts or support bras) and avoiding food that you were initially told to avoid when having gall bladder symptoms (fatty foods, including dairy products).

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