Gastric Pain Or Gallstones Symptoms? How To Tell Them Apart

November 9, 2021

Gastric Pain Or Gallstones Symptoms? How To Tell Them Apart

Often, common abdominal pain goes away after a couple of days and is not typically a cause for panic. However, if you’ve been experiencing abdominal pain for weeks, you may be suffering from a more serious condition.

Generally, gastric pain located in the upper abdomen is common and treatable with over-the-counter medication. However, if the pain cannot be managed on your own, you might have something more than just gastric pain. In fact, it’s common that patients who perceive to have mere gastric pain, are actually suffering from gallstones instead. To tell them apart, here’s everything that you need to know about gastric pain and gallstones. 

What is gastric pain?

Gastric pain is used to describe pain or discomfort in the upper abdomen. This condition is common among people who suffer from indigestion and other symptoms that suggest an ulcer, but may not manifest as an abnormality upon examination.

Normally, when you’re experiencing persistent gastric pain, your doctor will first attempt to rule out the organic or detectable causes of the problem, such as ulcers, inflammation, and cancer through diagnostic tests. If the tests come back with normal results and no causes can be identified, the gastric pain will be termed non-ulcer dyspepsia. This condition actually makes up the majority of gastric pain cases.

Non-ulcer dyspepsia cannot be fully cured. Nonetheless, its symptoms can be treated and successfully managed through lifestyle and diet changes, medication, and in some cases, psychological treatments (if psychological factors are involved).

What are gallstones? 

Aside from ulcers, inflammation, and cancer, gallstone disease is another common organic or detectable cause of upper abdominal pain. That is because gallstone disease can produce aching discomfort that is easily mistaken as gastric pain.

Your gallbladder is a tiny, pear-shaped organ located on your abdomen’s right side. Its main function is to hold a digestive fluid called bile, which is released into your small intestine. However, if the bile contains a great amount of cholesterol, bilirubin, or lacks enough bile salts, it may harden to form gallstones. Patients that have gallstones (solid deposits of bile) are said to have contracted gallbladder disease.

These gallstones can be as small as a grain or as big as a golf ball. It’s possible to have gallstones without experiencing any symptoms. However, if the stones lodge in a duct and cause blockage, you may experience the following signs and symptoms:

  • Spontaneous, intensifying pain in the mid or upper right part of your abdomen
  • Upper back pain
  • Pain in your right shoulder
  • Nausea or vomiting

How can I tell when upper abdominal pain indicates the presence of gallstones?

One of the more common symptoms of gallstone disease is pain or discomfort in the upper abdomen. Because the gall bladder and the nerve supply to your stomach shares the same origin in the vagus nerve, mere gastric pain and presence of gallstones are easily confused.

Often, many people who are suffering from gallstones may think that they’re just experiencing gastric pain and nothing more. To know whether you’re just experiencing gastric pain or suffering from gallstones, it’s always best to identify other symptoms. If you have the other aforementioned symptoms for gallstones – back pain, shoulder pain, nausea – it’s highly recommended to seek a doctor for a proper diagnosis of your condition. Your urine can also turn darker if the gallstone drops into the bile duct and causes obstruction.


Mistaking the painful symptoms of gallstones as mere gastric pain is common, especially among people who aren’t much acquainted with different medical conditions. If you’re experiencing a range of symptoms along with persistent abdominal pain, it’s best to consider screening and diagnostic tests.

There are various diagnostic tests you can undergo to accurately identify the cause of your persistent abdominal pain. Going for a gastroscopy or colonoscopy for symptoms such as abdominal pain, unexplained diarrhoea and blood in stools is usually recommended by medical professionals. Early prevention with a proper diagnosis is always vital to prevent a medical condition from developing.