Where Is Liver Pain Felt?

author avatar Dr. Eric Berg 12/26/2023

Are you concerned about your liver health and wonder where liver pain is felt?

Liver pain can be obscure and often manifests as radiating muscle pain in the upper regions of the right shoulder blade, which can make it difficult to spot signs of liver disease early.   


Let’s look at common liver pain symptoms and discover how to improve liver function and reduce the risk of liver damage. 

Woman with shoulder pain

What causes liver pain?

The liver is a vital organ located in the upper right abdomen. It plays a crucial role in regulating metabolism, nutrient absorption, hormonal balance, and detoxification. 

Various factors can cause liver pain, and while it can be an indicator of direct liver damage or injury, it often signals an underlying health issue that impacts liver function.    

Here are some potential causes of liver pain:

  • Liver inflammation

  • Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD)

  • Alcohol-related liver disease  

  • Liver abscess

  • Bacterial infection 

  • Viral hepatitis A, B, and C

  • Autoimmune hepatitis  

  • Gallbladder issues 

  • Liver cancer

The American Liver Foundation estimates that more than 100 million people in the US have some form of liver disease.

While it’s well known that alcohol has toxic effects on the liver, a study published in Nature Communications suggests that poor dietary habits are equally detrimental to liver function and a leading cause of chronic liver disease.  

The authors found that refined carbs, sugars, fructose, and unhealthy trans fats are direct contributors to fatty liver disease, which is linked to liver inflammation, scar tissue formation, and cirrhosis.   

Watch the video below to discover the link between poor liver health and a painful right shoulder. 

Where is liver pain felt?

Liver tissue doesn’t have pain receptors, and most liver problems don’t cause abdominal pain but present as referred pain in the right shoulder or neck

The same nerve fibers that regulate liver function are connected to the muscles located in the upper right back. 

“If the liver is inflamed or enlarged due to infection, liver fat, or scarring, the nerves surrounding the liver can become irritated or compressed,” explains Dr. Berg. “This often triggers tension, discomfort, and pain in the muscles surrounding the right shoulder blade.”   

Because it’s challenging to diagnose liver pain accurately, liver disease is a silent killer, as many individuals are unaware of liver issues until they show signs of end-stage liver disease.

In some cases, liver pain can radiate to the gallbladder and small intestine and manifest as gastrointestinal symptoms such as poor fat absorption, pale-colored stool, or diarrhea.  

Ketogenic foods

How to get rid of liver pain

Getting rid of liver pain typically involves avoiding alcohol, making beneficial dietary changes, maintaining a healthy weight, and incorporating natural remedies that promote healthy liver tissue regeneration. 

Here are four steps you can take to get rid of liver pain.

1. Avoid a high-carb diet 

The liver converts excess carbs and sugars into fats, which are deposited in liver cells. This explains why a high-carb diet can lead to fatty liver disease

In contrast, a high-fat diet primes your liver to burn fat as a primary fuel source, which helps eliminate liver fat linked to inflammation and liver pain.      

A study published in Cell Metabolism found that the ketogenic diet can dramatically reduce liver fat and increase markers of healthy liver function in as little as two weeks. 

To maximize the benefits of keto for liver health, it’s crucial to follow Healthy Keto®. This nutritious, low-carb diet focuses on high-quality ingredients rich in essential nutrients needed to promote optimal liver function. 

2. Practice intermittent fasting  

Intermittent fasting is a meal schedule that alternates between periods of fasting and designated windows of time for eating meals.

During periods of caloric restriction, the liver is forced to burn fatty acids stored in liver cells to generate energy, which helps cleanse the liver of fat.

Combining intermittent fasting with Healthy Keto is an excellent strategy to maintain a healthy body weight, promote liver function, and reduce the risk of fatty liver disease.  

According to research published in Hepatology, “Obesity is associated with a spectrum of liver diseases characterized by an increase in intrahepatic triglyceride, inflammation, and fibrosis.”

Various herbal remedies

3. Incorporate liver cleansing herbs

The liver is responsible for the detoxification and elimination of metabolic by-products, drugs, alcohol, heavy metals, and other potentially harmful substances. 

Detoxification processes generate free radicals, which are unstable molecules that can cause oxidative stress and cellular damage, making liver tissue especially susceptible to inflammation and scarring.

Various natural remedies promote liver health by protecting liver cells from free radicals, which enhances overall liver function and aids in the elimination of toxins. 

Here are some of the best foods for cleansing and repairing the liver:

4. Take bile salts 

Bile salts are essential for normal liver and gallbladder function, and a lack of adequate bile salts can lead to gallbladder sludge, which can irritate and inflame the biliary system.

Evidence published in Family Medicine confirms that gallbladder inflammation can cause or exacerbate liver pain and trigger shoulder and neck problems.

Ox bile, a natural source of bile salts, has been used as a natural liver pain treatment for centuries due to its liver-protective properties and the potential to reverse fatty liver disease.  

Human liver illustration

Other symptoms of liver problems

Not all liver problems cause liver pain, which makes it difficult to spot signs of liver disease early. 

The liver regulates many vital functions, and poor liver health can manifest in a wide range of hormonal, gastrointestinal, musculoskeletal, and skin issues.

Here are common symptoms associated with liver disease or poor liver function:

  • Jaundice

  • Ascites

  • High blood pressure

  • Loss of appetite 

  • Unexplained weight gain or weight loss

  • Itchy skin

  • Hair loss

  • Insulin resistance

  • Estrogen dominance 

  • Fatigue  

  • Bone pain

  • Brain fog and memory problems

  • Night blindness 

  • Poor kidney function

Doctor performing a liver scan

When to see a doctor

If you experience trauma or injury to the abdomen or develop symptoms such as sudden and severe pain beneath the right rib cage or unexplained abdominal swelling, it’s crucial to consult a healthcare provider immediately.

Blood tests can assess liver function by measuring levels of hepatic enzymes, and imaging tests can help evaluate potential structural abnormalities or swelling, which can be signs of serious liver issues. 

Ignoring major symptoms of liver problems can have serious health consequences, potentially leading to acute or chronic liver failure, which may require a liver transplant to restore vital physiological functions. 

Smiley face post-it note on the liver drawing

Key takeaways

Liver tissue is surrounded by nerves that connect to the upper right back regions, which explains why liver pain can radiate to the shoulder blade and neck.

It can be hard to diagnose liver pain, which is often linked to liver inflammation as a result of fatty liver disease, poor detoxification processes, or viral hepatitis.

Avoiding a high-carb diet, practicing intermittent fasting, taking bile salts, and protecting liver cells from oxidative stress and inflammation with natural remedies are excellent strategies to promote liver function and alleviate liver pain. 


1. How do I know if pain is caused by my liver?

Unexplained discomfort and pain around the right shoulder blade or neck region that doesn’t improve with massages, stretching, or physical therapy can indicate liver pain. 

2. What does it feel like when your liver hurts?

In most cases, liver pain manifests as radiating pain in the upper right back. The nerves that surround the liver are connected to the right shoulder, and an inflamed or enlarged liver can trigger muscular pain and tension.

In some cases, liver pain feels like a dull ache beneath the rib cage, which can be linked to poor gallbladder health and bile salt deficiency.  

3. Can your liver cause right shoulder pain?

Yes, liver issues can cause referred pain in the right shoulder and neck area. 

The same nerves that regulate your liver function are connected to the muscles in the upper back, and liver pain can radiate into your right shoulder blade. 

4. What pain can be mistaken for liver pain?

Pain associated with poor gallbladder or pancreas health, gastrointestinal issues, and certain kidney problems can be mistaken for liver pain. 

In addition, strained muscles or ligaments in the abdomen can trigger pain that is often misinterpreted as internal organ pain.

5. What are the warning signs of a damaged liver?

Warning signs of a damaged liver include symptoms such as fatigue, unexplained weight loss, nutrient deficiencies, digestive issues, jaundice, metabolic and hormonal imbalances, and persistent skin issues. 

6. How do I get rid of liver pain?

To alleviate liver pain, it's crucial to promote a healthy liver by limiting carbs and sugars, practicing intermittent fasting, and taking bile salt supplements.

In addition, it’s beneficial to protect liver cells from oxidative stress and inflammation with natural remedies such as milk thistle, turmeric, garlic, and broccoli sprouts. 

7. What causes liver pain?

Bacterial or viral infection can lead to hepatitis, a liver disease characterized by inflammation, scarring, and liver pain. 

Other common causes of liver pain are poor diet or alcohol use, obesity, gallbladder issues, trauma or injury to the abdominal area, or a liver abscess.  

8. When should I see a doctor about liver pain?

It’s crucial to seek medical attention if you experience persistent or severe discomfort in the upper right shoulder or abdomen, especially if the pain is accompanied by symptoms such as jaundice, dark urine, or changes in bowel movements. 


  1. https://liverfoundation.org/about-your-liver/facts-about-liver-disease 

  2. https://www.nature.com/articles/s41467-023-35861-1 

  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6706084/ 

  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3575093/ 

  5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4311366/ 


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