Shoulder and back pain with gall bladder

by Nathan Wei, MD, FACP, FACR

Nathan Wei is a nationally known board-certified rheumatologist and author of the Second Opinion Arthritis Treatment Kit. It's available exclusively at this website... not available in stores.

Click here: Second Opinion Arthritis Treatment Kit

The most common “internal” cause for pain leading to the right shoulder blade is gall bladder disease.

The term for this is “biliary colic.”

Biliary colic is a steady or intermittent ache in the upper abdomen, usually under the right rib cage. It happens when gallstones interfere with the normal flow of bile from the gallbladder. If a gallstone blocks ducts, the normal flow of bile into the intestine is disrupted. The muscle cells in the bile duct contract vigorously to try to move the stone, causing the pain of biliary colic.

A person with biliary colic usually complains of an ache or a feeling of pressure in the upper abdomen. This pain can occur in the upper abdomen, or in the upper-right abdomen near the gallbladder and liver. In some people, the abdominal pain radiates toward the right shoulder blade. Many people also experience nausea and vomiting.

Ultrasound, can detect gallstones. Blood tests also may be ordered.

If the biliary colic is recurrent or persistent, surgery to remove the gallbladder (cholecystectomy) usually is recommended. This procedure can be done through small incisions using an instrument called a laparoscope. The procedure usually requires only brief hospitalization.

Rarely, medication to dissolve gallstones is combined with shock wave lithotripsy, a procedure that uses shock waves to break up gallstones. However, in many people treated with medication and/or lithotripsy, gallstones tend to reform.

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