Liver pain

Liver pain occurs in the right upper abdomen below the chest.

The pain is often perceived as diffuse and dull, but severe pain is also possible, in addition, it can be accompanied by back pain.

Liver pain is caused by pressure on the pain receptors located on the capsule surrounding the liver.
The pain often cannot be precisely localized and is confused with general abdominalback or kidney pain.
To avoid mistakes: the liver is located in the right abdominal region, the spleen in the left abdominal region.

Pain in the right lateral abdominal region (flank) can be caused by gallstones, intestinal complaints and inflammation of the pancreas (pancreatitis).
Liver pain is often perceived as pain in the right shoulder.


Causes of liver pain

Causes of liver pain include:

  1. Gallbladder stones
  2. Bile duct disorders
  3. Irritable bowel syndrome
  4. Pneumonia in the lower region of the right lung

The liver pain can result from the symptoms and diseases described below; at the beginning the patient does not feel anything, but at an advanced stage pain may occur:

Hepatitis or inflammation of the liver is caused by a viral infection.

Fatty liver or steatosis hepatis Fatty liver or medically steatosis hepatis
is characterized by the storage of large amounts of fat in the organ, which can lead to liver inflammation, liver pain and a bitter taste in the mouth.
Alcohol abuse is one of the main causes of fatty liver disease.

Liver cancer
Liver cancer is caused by metastases of other organs or chronic alcohol abuse.

Cirrhosis of the liver – this disease mainly affects alcoholics. Alcohol damages the liver and causes cirrhosis.

Rare inherited diseases such as hemochromatosis or Wilson’s disease can lead to hepatitis, cirrhosis and hepatic insufficiency.

Liver pain when running

When running, side stitches often occur after a certain time, even in children: a strong, stabbing pain just below the chest, usually on the right side.
Especially in endurance runners the side stitching occurs; in this case, it is necessary to reduce the effort and take a break from walking until the pain subsides.

For a long time there was no explanation for this unpleasant spasm.
Today, researchers assume that side stitches on the right side are caused by the stretching of the ligaments; This refers to the ligaments that extend from the diaphragm to the internal organs, and especially to the liver.
The movement of inhalation and exhalation while running stretches these ligaments.
Runners exhale every two to four steps.
Most people exhale when the left foot touches the ground, but others when the right foot is on the ground.
The latter have a higher probability of side stitches on the liver. When exhaling, if the right foot touches the ground, there is a blowback to the liver (which is located on the right side just below the rib cage).
When the liver sags into the lower abdominal region, the diaphragm rises to exhale.
This repeated stretching is thought to cause diaphragmatic spasms.

Countermeasures for acute side stitches In order to stop right-sided side stitches while running, a break must be taken.
The pain can be relieved more quickly if one hand is placed on the right abdominal region and pressed upwards, pushing the liver slightly upwards.

Liver pain when breathing

Severe and persistent pain that occurs when breathing in the right, lateral abdominal region may indicate inflammation of the gallbladder (cholecystitis, usually caused by gallstones).
The pain increases especially with deep inhalation.

Liver pain after alcohol consumption

Liver pain is usually caused by an underlying disease and should therefore not be taken lightly.

Alcohol-related liver pain is a common problem for alcoholics.

Persistent alcohol abuse can lead to liver problems, the most important of which are:

  1. Fatty liver
  2. Alcohol hepatitis
  3. Alcoholic cirrhosis of the liver


A fatty liver is characterized by the deposition of fat in the liver cells.
This in itself is not a harmful disorder, but can cause complications such as alcohol hepatitis and alcoholic cirrhosis if it worsens.

Alcohol hepatitis refers to mild or severe inflammation of the liver.
Mild hepatitis can occur symptom-free, while severe liver inflammation causes the typical yellowing of the skin and eyes as well as liver pain (especially after intoxication).
A strong attack of hepatitis can cause hepatic insufficiency.

With alcoholic cirrhosis, the natural liver tissue is gradually replaced by fibrotic tissue.
As the liver cells continue to die, the functioning of the organ is impaired and exposed to severe stress.
Studies show that this serious disorder can occur in 1 in 10 alcoholics.
Alcoholic cirrhosis can lead to hepatic insufficiency if not treated promptly.
The symptoms are not always typical in the initial phase, so diagnosis can be difficult.

A commonality of these three diseases is that they can have a mild to severe intensity.
The affected person may experience a slight, constant pain or irregular stings.
Sometimes problems arise in the diagnosis, which lead to the disease.

As a result, treatment is delayed and the condition worsens.
If liver pain increases after drinking alcohol, it is a sign that there is a condition that requires diagnosis and treatment as soon as possible.

Movement-dependent pain

Liver pain when standing up Pain caused by a gallstone in the gallbladder can be felt when standing
The patient tries to escape the pain by taking a restraining posture; to do this, he leans forward, sits or lies huddled together in embryonic position.
Right flank pain can be felt even with deep breathing.

Liver pain after surgery The pain after gallstone surgery lasts for a few weeks and then gradually disappears on its own.

You may feel stabbing pain in the liver and a feeling of pressure, especially when the affected person sits down or bends forward.
If the pain persists, the doctor must be consulted for a follow-up visit.

Rib fracture
With a fracture of the lower ribs, pain occurs when breathing, turning the upper body and bending forward.
The pain is localized where the bone is broken.
On an X-ray, the exact fracture site can be seen.

Concomitant symptoms of liver pain

Below are some symptoms that also arise due to dysfunction of the liver (some of which may indicate a serious illness):

1. Itching – causes include gallstones, which block the path of bile to the intestines. The fluid enters the blood and accumulates at the level of the skin, where it provokes itching.
2. Ascites (for cirrhosis or tumor) 3. Loss of libido
4. Jaundice
5. Nausea
6. Vomiting
7. Dark urine and light stools (caused by gallstone, cholangitis, biliary or hepatic cirrhosis, hepatitis, liver tumor or diseases of other organs)

8. Fatigue
9. Loss of appetite and weight loss (if the size of the liver has increased sharply)
10. Back pain

Liver pain and fever
Possible causes:

  • Infection of the liver
  • Cholangitis (inflammation of the bile ducts)
  • Neoplasia (tumor)
  • Rejection after transplantation

Liver pain and shortness of breath (dyspnea)
Pain when breathing or coughing can arise due to increased pressure on the lungs, which may be caused by:

Liver and shoulder pain
Possible causes:

  • Tumor – can also cause back pain
  • Gall stones
  • Infection and inflammation (acute hepatitis) with liver enlargement

Liver pain and white tongue coating
Possible causes:

  • Hepatitis
  • Cirrhosis

It is generally believed that a bitter taste in the mouth has to do with the liver, but in reality there is no direct connection to this.

Diagnosis and differential diagnosis

Correct diagnosis of liver pain is essential for prompt treatment and to avoid life-threatening complications.

Investigations include:

  • Blood and urine test to measure the concentration of bilirubin, liver enzymes (the transaminases ASAT and ALAT) and alphafoetoprotein
  • Ultrasound examination of the liver
  • Endoscopy of the liver
  • Biopsy of the liver

Natural remedies for liver pain

Way of
life First of all, diet and lifestyle should be drastically changed.
This includes abstaining from alcohol and certain foods, such as spicy and fatty foods, aged cheeses and stimulating drinks such as tea and coffee.

The liver rids the body of toxins and aids digestion, but can suffer damage if there is an accumulation of the undigested waste products.
The best way to increase the functioning of the liver is detoxification.
This means a day of fasting, abstinence from spicy or fatty food and a relief of the liver through vegetable-rich and simple food.
In this way, the accumulated waste products can be broken down, as well as the digestion and functioning of the liver can be promoted.

Nutrition and diet for liver pain
Diet is fundamental to liver problems.
Many doctors and naturopaths recommend a fasting cure if there are no contraindications (pregnancy, liver or pancreatic tumor, diabetestuberculosis or cancer in the advanced stage and heart disease).
The recommended diet consists of fruits, vegetables, legumes, and nuts.
Cereals are usually discouraged because they are rich in carbohydrates that accumulate in the liver.

Dairy products are also largely discouraged, even if conventional medicine does not recommend completely abstaining from them.

After the blood type diet, one should eat more proteins (animal, vegetable and proteins contained in pseudocereals such as quinoa and amaranth).

According to the theory of natural medicine and health hygiene, on the other hand, animal proteins must be avoided, while above all products should be consumed that have not been processed or transformed, i.e. no desserts or frozen foods.

There are foods that help restore liver health.
Here are some examples:

  • Green vegetables (cabbage, bitter cucumber, sprouts) and fruits (especially papaya) do not burden the liver and promote detoxification.
  • Garlic works naturally against inflammation and fungi and thus promotes the digestion and functioning of the liver.
  • The mother tincture of milk thistle supports the detoxification of the liver.
  • Aloe juice is a drink with beneficial effects on the liver.

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