Located in the right upper abdomen, the gallbladder is a small pouch that stores bile until it is needed by the body. When the need arises, the gallbladder contracts and expels a small amount of bile through the bile duct and into the small intestine to aid with digestion. As with any organ in your body, certain complications can occur within the gallbladder and its associated ducts. Although regular exercise can typically help prevent these problems, the physical exertion can worse a gallbladder attack.
Bile is a digestive waste product consisting of water, fat, cholesterol, protein, bile salts and bilirubin. Occasionally, the bile might form into hardened desposits called gallstones. According to MayoClinic.com, gallstones are more likely to form if your gallbladder empties infrequently or the bile contains too much cholesterol or bilirubin. When gallstones develop, the organ might develop one large stone, hundreds of small stones or a combination of large and small stones. If the gallstones remain in the gallbladder, they typically cause no symptoms.
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In some cases, the gallstones move out of the gallbladder and become lodged in the hepatic, cystic or common bile duct. When this happens, the normal flow of bile becomes obstructed and the gallbladder typically becomes inflamed and infected. If the problem goes untreated, it might also lead to severe damage or infection in the liver or pancreas. When gallstones obstruct the flow of bile, a gallbladder attack occurs. Symptoms of a gallbladder attack are often severe and intense. Although pain begins in the upper right abdomen, it might radiate to the right chest, side, shoulder blade and back. The pain often becomes worse with any type of activity or deep breathing. If you are having a gallbladder attack, exercise will almost certainly make the pain worse.
Since dormant gallstones typically produce no symptoms, you would probably never expect a gallbladder attack. Experiencing this sudden excruciating pain -- whether exercising or not -- will most likely alarm you. To ensure heath, seek medical attention immediately. In the case of severe inflammation or infection in the gallbladder, liver or pancreas, you will likely require immediate hospitalization and medical treatment.
Benefits of Exercise
Even if you have a history of gallstones, don't be afraid to exercise. As of March 2011, no direct link has been established between exercise and gallbladder attacks. In fact, regular exercise might even help prevent the formation of future gallstones. According to the ScienceDaily website, a University of Illinois study found that after 12 weeks, mice that exercised five days per week had significantly fewer gallstones than sedentary mice. So whether you have a history of gallstones or not, get your daily dose of exercise to reduce your risk of developing the painful stones. But if you do have a history of gallbladder problems, consult your physician first.
- MayoClinic.com: Gallstones
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Gallstones and Gallbladder Disease
- Gallbladder Attack: Information on Gallbladder Attacks
- National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse: Gallstones
- Merck: Cholecystitis
- ScienceDaily: Exercise To Avoid Gallstones, New Research Suggests
Is this an emergency? If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, please see the National Library of Medicine’s list of signs you need emergency medical attention or call 911.