No I don’t mean family, fitness, faith, finances and fun… although I wish I did. This time, I’ll be discussing the 5 other F’s – for a health issue that is a common occurrence for women my age. Shall we start from the beginning?
Over the past couple months, I started experiencing intense pain on the right side of my lower back. The pain would come on suddenly and sporadically – typically jolting me out of a deep sleep at 3 am in the morning. Each time the pain began, my stomach would become severely bloated, I would break out into sweat and become nauseous. I tried yoga poses, walking, stretching, heating pads, etc. in an attempt to alleviate the pain. Gradually over the course of the day the pain would slowly begin to fade.
When it first started happening, I thought maybe I had developed a food allergy or tweaked my back muscles while exercising. But after experiencing a particularly bad episode, my husband finally convinced me to schedule a doctor’s appointment.
After explaining my symptoms, reviewing bloodwork and a urinalysis – my doctor said while it could be my kidneys, she felt pretty strongly that it was probably my gallbladder causing the problems.
She explained that food allergies typically present earlier than your 40s. She also didn’t believe it was a pulled muscle since it went away within a day and returned randomly.
She felt that the most likely scenario was that I had gallstones. Which I found rather shocking since I eat fairly healthy and exercise. She said there were five “F’s” that were used as a mnemonic for risks factors associated with gallstone:
A trip to the radiology department for an ultrasound of my abdomen confirmed her hypothesis. The radiologist noted several gallstones in my gallbladder. My doctor believes the reason I experience pain periodically is that a stone would occasionally shift, causing a blockage and inflammation.
What’s interesting is that in most cases people experience severe abdominal pain and their back pain is typically between their shoulder blades. I did not experience abdominal pain – what I had was abdominal bloating and nausea from the extreme back pain. My back pain was also felt in my lower right region of my back beneath my rib cage.
The doctor isn’t clear on what exactly caused my gallstones. Her recommendation was to continue to eat well, exercise, drink plenty of water and to stay away from particularly heavy or greasy foods. If my symptoms continue to increase in frequency or intensity, the next step would be surgery to remove my gallbladder.
You can read more about gallstone symptoms, causes, and treatments on the Mayo Clinic’s website.
To date, it has been a couple weeks since my last episode so I am hopeful that by continuing to be cognitive of the food I’m consuming I can prevent the need for surgery. I’ve known several people that have had the surgery and are happy with the results.
If you have gallstones or have had your gallbladder removed I would love to hear your experience.