What side to lay on during a gallbladder attack? (+1 facts)
In this article, we will discuss the sleeping position that may reduce the pain during a gallbladder attack. We will also discuss some useful tips and pharmacological interventions to improve sleep and avoid gallbladder pain.
What side to lay on during a gallbladder attack?
You should preferably lie on your left side and slightly pull your knees towards your head during a gallbladder attack. You should keep your head slightly elevated (using pillows) at all times. However, it is important to note that no scientific evidence confirms this theory.
If you go to bed immediately after eating, it may aggravate gallbladder pain after lying down. The gallbladder attack may last for many hours, till the gallstone has passed. This may disrupt your sleeping pattern, irrespective of the sleeping position.
If you had one gallbladder attack during the night, more attacks will likely follow. You should keep yourself calm, avoid talking too much, and let the body use its energy to pass out the gallbladder stone. Tilting and twisting may increase the pain.
What positions to avoid during a gallbladder attack?
Do not lie flat on your stomach as it may put pressure on your abdominal region. This may intensify the pain and other associated symptoms. Lying flat on your stomach also puts stress on your spine, stretching your spine out of natural alignment.
Sleeping on your right side may constrict your gallbladder. As the gallbladder and liver are both present on the right side, sleeping on the right side puts pressure on both organs due to body weight. This also increases the chance of acid reflux.
Avoid sleeping on your back with your legs bent at the knees as it may put pressure on your abdominal region and gallbladder. It may make it difficult for the gallstone to pass out, causing abdominal discomfort, and bloating.
Extreme twisting, turning, and restlessness during a gallbladder attack may make the pain worse. You should rest on your left side and may curl into a ball to help relieve extreme pain. Limited movements do not make the pain worse.
What are the symptoms of a gallbladder attack?
When gallstones become lodged in the duct, they impede the outflow of bile, causing the gallbladder to spasm. This may cause pain under the ribcage, similar to being cut by a knife. Other symptoms may include (1, 2):
- Excruciating pain,
- Abdominal pain after eating,
- Abdominal tenderness,
- Appetite loss,
- Chills or fever,
- Pain in the left shoulder, and
How to improve sleep after a gallbladder attack?
Apart from the sleeping position, sleep may be improved after a gallbladder attack by treating the underlying disease. Your gallbladder attacks may go away on their own without the need for major clinical intervention apart from pain relievers. In extreme cases, surgery is required.
If you have severe pain during a gallbladder attack, your doctor may perform a cholecystectomy. In this procedure, the gallbladder is removed from the body, instead of treating the associated symptoms. This is especially important if your gallbladder has become infected.
An infected gallbladder may tear due to gallstones or leak the infected content in the body. An early cholecystectomy enhances recovery, reduces pain, and eventually improves your sleep. Most people leave the hospital within one or two days of surgery (3).
If you can bear the gallbladder attack, your doctor may give you some medication to lessen the severity of symptoms so you may sleep better. Some medications given for symptomatic treatment of gallbladder attack include:
- Resveratrol: It relaxes the gallbladder muscle strips by reducing the intracellular calcium, and regulating the potassium channels (2).
- Pain killers: Acute gallbladder attack pain can be managed with nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen and naproxen.
However, in the case of chronic pain opioids like morphine, meperidine, and tramadol are often prescribed. Tramadol causes headaches in the first few days of starting the therapy. The side effects go away in a week or two.
- Curcumin: Curcumin is known to prevent the formation of gallbladder stones by acting as a cholecystokinin agent (facilitating the pumping of the gallbladder) (4).
- Antibiotics: If the gallbladder becomes infected due to gallbladder stones, ampicillin/sulbactam, or piperacillin/tazobactum is prescribed. In more serious conditions meropenum is prescribed.
- Supplements: Magnesium supplements are useful to help relieve gallbladder pain and spasms. It also helps to relieve gallbladder emptying (5).
One of my collegue used to have severe gallbladder attacks. The symptoms would flare up anytime during the day and night, dsrupting her quality of life and sleeping pattern. She eventually decided to get her gallbladder removed.
However, the complications did not subside after the surgery. It is important to discuss with your doctor about the pros and cons of pharmacological interventions vs sugery. You are better judge of your condition, but removing an organ from body may induce other complications.
It is important that you maintain a good and healthy diet. Avoid greasy, processed, and high fat and high carb food. Cholesterol is known to facilitate gallstone formation. Try consuming high fibre food like vegetables, fruits, and wheat products.
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Portincasa P, Moschetta A, Petruzzelli M, Palasciano G, Di Ciaula A, Pezzolla A. Symptoms and diagnosis of gallbladder stones. Best Practice & Research Clinical Gastroenterology. 2006 Jan 1;20(6):1017-29. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S1521691806000552
Tsai CC, Lee MC, Tey SL, Liu CW, Huang SC. Mechanism of resveratrol-induced relaxation in the human gallbladder. BMC complementary and alternative medicine. 2017 Dec;17(1):1-7. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5422932/
Comitalo JB. Laparoscopic cholecystectomy and newer techniques of gallbladder removal. JSLS: Journal of the Society of Laparoendoscopic Surgeons. 2012 Jul;16(3):406. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3535814/
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