Heat Therapy and Gallbladder Problems

The gallbladder, which is a located under the liver, concentrates and stores bile produced by the liver. There are three main causes of gallbladder problems: gallstones, cholecystitis and cancer. Gallstones are crystalline deposits that form in the gallbladder, accounting for 90 percent of all problems with the gallbladder. Cholecystitis is an inflamed gallbladder -- usually resulting from a gallstone -- which is a painful and potentially life threatening condition. Cancer of the gallbladder is also a painful and life-threatening condition.

Hot water bottle on a bed Credit: Clara_Gabrielli/iStock/Getty Images

When to Apply

Because most gallstones do not re-occur, doctors frequently do not advocate any therapy at all during a first episode, preferring to passively monitor the situation. If the gallstones re-occur, however, heat therapy is generally used. Applying heat to the abdominal area can help reduce moderately painful gallstones; however, a severe case may require more aggressive treatment, such as nonsurgical or surgical removal. Heat therapy can be beneficial for treating moderate pain due to cholecystitis. If the condition is serious or worsens, a doctor may recommend a range of treatments, from moderately invasive treatment with antibiotics to surgical removal of the gallbladder.

Heat Packs

Heat therapy can help reduce pain and swelling. The heat should be applied either with a hot water bottle or heating pad to the abdominal area, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center website. The website suggests first putting a clean soft cloth soaked in caster oil onto your stomach area. The heat source is placed on top of this cloth. Leave the cloth and heat on your stomach for 30 to 60 minutes. Apply this treatment for three consecutive days.


Cancer of the gallbladder is a serious and often fatal condition. Thermo-chemo-radiotherapy, or TCRT, is a type of laser heat therapy used to remove cancerous tumors in the gallbladder. In this type of treatment, radiofrequency capacitive hyperthermia lasers are combined with medicine to dissolve tumors over approximately a week. A 2007 article published in "Cancer Therapy" documented patients having an average survival rate of 9 1/2 months after treatment. At the one year point, 31 percent of subjects in this study had survived.

Other Considerations

Symptoms of gallbladder problems include pain on the upper right side of your stomach, pain after eating, especially when eating fatty foods, nausea, vomiting and loss of appetite. All gallbladder issues should be taken seriously and reported to a physician. Proper diagnosis and treatment can avert a problem from becoming life-threatening, decrease the amount of pain you suffer or increase your chances of survival if the condition is serious.

Is This an Emergency?

If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, seek emergency treatment immediately.
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