Pain in the upper part of your back on the right side is most commonly associated with a problem with your gallbladder. The gallbladder is a small pouch-like structure below your liver that stores bile. Bile helps digest the fat that you eat in the small intestine. Gallstones are the most common causes of pain in the upper part of the back on the right after eating.
Several factors can contribute to the formation of gallstones. It is hypothesized that patients who have gallstones have more cholesterol and less bile salts in their bile when it leaves the liver. Gallstones can also be formed if the motility in the gallbladder is slowed. This causes the bile to stay in the gallbladder for an extended period of time, which can then cause stones to form. It is important to consult with your physician if you experience symptoms for a prolonged period of time.
The pain that is felt in the upper portion of the back on the right is typically present after you consume a meal that is high in fat. Many patients also have nausea and may vomit 12 to 18 hours after consuming the high-fat meal. The medical textbook "Rubin's Pathology: Clinicopathic Foundations of Medicine" by Raphael Rubin and colleagues state that people who are at risk for developing gallstones include individuals who are obese, eat meals high in fat and calories or are of Chilean or Northern European descent 1. There is also an increased prevalence of gallstones in women and in people over the age of 40.
Your physician may order lab work and a diagnostic ultrasound to determine if you have gallstones. Once it is determined that you do have gallstones, you may undergo a procedure known as a cholecystectomy. A cholecystectomy is usually performed laparoscopically, where the surgeon will remove the gallbladder. The patient is usually released in one day and can return to work in a few days. Some patients report persistent diarrhea after the procedure.
Gallstones can be prevented, especially in people who are at risk for developing them. Losing weight and staying physically active are two ways that you can prevent the formation of gallstones. Untreated, gallstones can lead to chronic inflammation of the gallbladder known as chronic cholecystitis. Eating a healthy, well-balanced diet that is low in fat and regular checkups with your physician will also decrease your chance of developing gallstones.
- "Rubin's Pathology: Clinicopathic Foundations in Medicine"; Raphael Rubin et al.; 2008
- "Differential Diagnosis and Management for the Chiropractor: Protocols and Algorithms"; Thomas A. Souza; 2009
- MayoClinic.com: Gallstones
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