Here’s the table of contents so you can go straight to the parts you’re most interested in. Just please remember, this post is not medical advice! I’m speaking straight from my experience and my own research, and you should definitely follow the instructions from your medical team.
Table of Contents
- Pain & pain management
- What body parts hurt after the liver biopsy
- Painful activities (and bodily functions)
- Tips for pain management
- Takeaways from my experience
- But, what’s the purpose of liver biopsies and what can they tell you?
Pain & Pain Management
After my liver biopsy, I experienced varying levels of pain in different parts of my body. Here are a few pain management hacks I wish I had known going into this experience.
What Body Parts Hurt After the Liver Biopsy?
Right after my procedure and for the next three days after the liver biopsy, I was still in a fair amount of pain.
Mainly, it was my liver, right shoulder, back, and, in some sleeping positions, my chest.
The pain alternated between a dull throbbing pain, and a sharp acute pain, depending on how I moved my body. For example, laughing caused the sharp pain, and sitting too long caused the dull pain.
Also, the skin around my incision site felt sore and bruised.
Shoulder and Collarbone Pain
Since the phrenic nerve runs past the liver up to your right shoulder, that area remained irritated for a few days. It felt like a running cramp inside my collarbone, and it hurt especially when I tried to pick up anything more than a few pounds.
A small, localized spot behind my right shoulder blade hurt every once in a while. It was a very dull pain, and usually occurred after sitting in one spot for too long or standing up for too long. It also could have been from sleeping uncomfortably on my back.
My chest mainly hurt the first two days. Laying too flat on my back compressed my chest and made it difficult to breathe. I could only take in short, shallow breaths because breathing deeply hurt my liver and chest.
Painful Activities (and Bodily Functions)
It hurt my abdomen, chest, and shoulder to cough, poop, laugh, burp, sneeze, sniff, blow my nose, bend over, and take deep breaths (basically anything that required my core to squeeze or tense). Out of all these, laughing and breathing deeply hurt the most.
I also couldn’t lay down. For the first night and a half, I could only sleep sitting up, with my back propped up against tons of fluffy pillows.
Laying flat on my back or my sides hurt my chest and liver very badly. For whatever reason, laying in these positions made it nearly impossible to breathe because of the chest pain.
A Scary Moment Trying to Lay Down
Before I knew all this, I tried to lay down on my back once I got home, but I suddenly couldn’t breathe! I quickly flipped myself onto my stomach hoping that would help the pain and breathing, but it felt like I was just punched in the liver.
I could barely breathe, barely talk, and was squeezing my husband’s arm so tightly (he was laying next to me) trying to tell him to help me up.
He rushed up and helped pull me to a sitting position. It was really scary and painful.
So after that, I made sure to sit up in bed and not attempt laying down flat. After several hours of being propped against pillows, I could increasingly lay down inch by inch until my chest wouldn’t let me go any further.
Tips for Pain Management
Take Tylenol, If Needed
The only pain med I was allowed to take was Tylenol. They couldn’t prescribe anything stronger, and they definitely couldn’t prescribe any blood thinners.
But honestly, after the first few hours of returning home, the pain wasn’t enough to even need Tylenol. Yes, it was occasionally painful, sore, and uncomfortable, but I try to avoid meds unless I desperately need them.
The main reason I avoided taking any Tylenol is that I wanted to be able to tell if the pain was increasing. Increased pain can be a sign of internal bleeding, and I didn’t want anything in the way of me catching any early signs.
Alternate Between Sitting and Standing
After sitting for too long, my liver and back would start to ache. So I made sure to stand up and walk around the house occasionally.
However, for the first few days, I was easily winded, so I made sure not to walk too much and to have a place to rest if needed.
Three days after my biopsy, Tyler and I went shopping at the grocery store. I thought pushing the cart might help support me and give me something to rest on if I grew tired/winded from walking, but instead, pushing the cart (especially once it started getting full and heavy) hurt my liver. So I tasked Tyler with being the cart-pusher this time. I was able to go through our whole grocery shopping errand without getting too winded.
Avoid Tight Clothing
My wound site was sore, and the last thing I wanted was any tight-fitting clothes to press against it. For the next several days, I wore a loose shirt and no bra because the bottom of the bra fits right where my liver is.
I also avoided wearing pullover sweatshirts because I didn’t want to hurt my liver or shoulder while trying to wriggle in or out of one.
No Lifting Heavy Things
I was instructed not to lift anything over 15 pounds.
A day or two after my procedure, my cat was sitting on my lap, and I needed to pick him up so I could get up. He’s only 12 pounds, so I thought it would be fine.
OW. Lifting and holding him for just a few seconds sent a deep ache into my liver. Guess sometimes you gotta learn the hard way.
Ask for Assistance
My husband Tyler was a huge help with the heavier household chores during that first week of recovery.
He took out the garbage and pushed the can to the street. He opened jars that I can normally open but now brought too much pressure to my recovering liver.
He even opened the car door for me when we went out to do errands because that door can be heavy when you can’t lift more than a few pounds!
Takeaways from My ExperienceChat with your nurse about what kind of post-surgery pain is normal and ways to help control it. Have your significant other, family member, friend, etc help you with errands/chores until you feel well enough to start doing them again. Find the right balance between light exercising (ie. walking) and resting.
But, what’s the purpose of liver biopsies and what exactly can they tell you?
In next week’s blog post, Part 4, I’ll talk about the behind-the-scenes about why doctors prescribe liver biopsies, what the results can tell you, the types of liver diseases/issues biopsies can help diagnose, and more!
Follow me on social media to get an alert when this Part 4 of 4 is live!
Any questions about liver biopsy pain or pain management? Anything I left out? Please don’t hesitate to reach out in the comments or on my social media!
Please remember: I am not a medical professional. The information in this blog post (and anywhere on my website and its affiliated social media channels) is simply me sharing my story, experience, and research. It does not take the place of medical advice from a licensed medical professional. Talk with your medical team before implementing any listed takeaways or anything else 🙂