Liver Pain: Possible Causes and Locations

    • Liver pain comes in different forms and occurs in different parts of the body.
    • Often, the pain is confused as coming from the stomach, making it hard to determine the pain from the liver.
    • Liver pain can occur in the abdomen, on the back and shoulders, depending on varying causes.

The liver, which sits under your ribs, is responsible for many vital life functions that include blood detoxification and purification, converting food into substances that help in fat absorption and combating disease, and stockpiling energy after meals.

Although it’s the body’s largest organ, detecting the pain from the liver can be hard because it’s often mistaken as pain coming from your stomach. Depending on the cause, liver pain can present as pain in the front center of your belly, on your back and even your shoulders.

Plus, the liver doesn’t have nerve fibers that sense pain. The pain usually occurs because the tissue surrounding it is inflamed caused by trauma like injury or illness.

Here are some examples of liver diseases that can cause liver pain.

Viral Hepatitis

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Viruses that infect the liver cause inflammation resulting in pain in the upper right side of the belly. Hepatitis symptoms also include dark-colored pee, jaundice or yellowish skin or eyes, tiredness, nausea or vomiting.

Alcoholic Hepatitis

Alcoholic hepatitis is often a result of frequent excessive alcohol intake where your abdomen may feel tender from the pain. It can also cause appetite and weight loss, nausea, low-grade fever, tiredness and weakness.

Fatty Liver Disease

Obesity, diabetes or having high cholesterol can all contribute to fat buildup in the liver. Over time, it can cause liver scarring, preventing it from functioning properly. Fatty liver normally gives you a constant dull pain in the right upper part of your abdomen or all over it.

Fitz-Hugh-Curtis Syndrome

This bacterial infection causes inflammation to the tissues surrounding the liver affecting the stomach lining. Often, symptoms include fever, chills, headache, and an abrupt, severe pain in the upper right region of your belly that sometimes spreads to the arm and shoulder.

Liver Abscess or Cyst

A liver abcess or a pus-filled pocket can develop from various sources such as a bacterial, fungal or parasitic liver infection. Usually, the top right side of your belly may feel tender, and you’re likely to have fever and chills. Cysts also make your abdomen feel “full” making you feel more uncomfortable. When bleeding occurs in the cysts, it often results in a sudden, sharp pain the upper right belly and shoulder.

Budd-Chiari Syndrome

This very rare condition is caused by a constriction of the hepatic veins that drain the liver, as well as blood clots and liver swelling. Besides pain in the top right side of the belly, it also causes liver enlargement.

Portal Vein Thrombosis

When a blood clot occurs in the hepatic portal vein, the vessel that moves blood to the liver from the intestines, sudden pain is typically felt at the upper right part of the abdomen near the liver. You will likely have fever and swelling in your belly.

Liver Injury

Due to its size, accidents and other forms of trauma may injure the liver and sometimes cause bleeding. It normally causes pain and tenderness in the abdomen and right shoulder as well as shock as a result of blood loss.

Liver Cancer

Pain is normally felt when the cancer is in its advanced stages. It can be felt anywhere from your abdomen to your shoulder. Symptoms of the disease also include weight loss, itchiness, jaundice, enlarged stomach and feeling sick.


Gallstones which can form in your gallbladder, a small organ under your liver, can cause pain that is often mistaken as from your liver. You may experience sudden and worsening pain in the center or right side of the upper abdomen, between your shoulder blades or in the right shoulder.

When to seek medical treatment

Seek immediate medical treatment if your liver pain is so severe, worsens quickly, and persists for a long time affecting your daily life. Also, if you have other symptoms like jaundice, fever, chills, nausea and vomiting, better have it checked right away.

Source: WebMD