“Yes, patients can have dull pain if the symptoms are secondary to gallstones,” says Akram Alashari, MD, a trauma surgeon at Geisinger Medical Center in PA, and author of “THE POWER OF PEAK STATE.”

Dr. Alashari continues, “Symptomatic gallstones is often referred to as biliary colic. Often when it is dull it will mainly be in the right upper quadrant but it will also radiate to the epigastric area as well as the tip of the scapula.

“Usually, if the pain fails to subside and becomes sharp in nature, then cholecystitis may be developing.”

Sometimes there is no pain.

“The majority of people who have gallstones do not have symptoms; their stones remain ‘silent,’” says Dr. Alashari. “Silent gallstones are often found on an ultrasound or CT scan done for other reasons.

“Silent stones do not need to be treated since the first symptoms of gallstones are usually mild and there are risks involved in removing the gallbladder.

“If you have silent gallstones, you should be aware of the initial symptoms of gallstone disease because you may need treatment if you develop symptoms.”

The most common symptom of gallstones is pain, also called biliary pain. And as you’ve already read, it can be sharp or dull.

“It causes attacks of abdominal pain, often located in the right upper belly just under the lower ribs. You may also feel nausea and vomiting, and pain in the right shoulder or back.”

No Stones but Still Pain

“A similar presentation occurs in the absence of stones if there is dysfunction of the gallbladder.

“This is known as biliary dyskinesia.

“This is due to incomplete emptying of the gallbladder in response to eating.

“This may cause dull pain in the right upper quadrant as well.”

akram alashari

Dr. Alashari was formerly with Grand Strand Regional Medical Center in SC as an abdominal and critical care surgeon. 
Lorra Garrick has been covering medical, fitness and cybersecurity topics for many years, having written thousands of articles for print magazines and websites, including as a ghostwriter. She’s also a former ACE-certified personal trainer.  


Top image: Shutterstock/Everyonephoto Studio