Liver Qi Stagnation Nation

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Liver Qi Stagnation Nation

OMG, my acupuncturist says I have Liver Qi Stagnation!!??!

OK, relax, it’s nothing to go running to your MD about. No you don’t need to have your liver checked.  People hear this term from acupuncturists all the time.

Well then what is this Liver Qi stagnation?

Do you ever sit in your chair at work, with piles of things to do sitting before you, and all you want to do is get up and move?  How about the feeling of being stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic and you can’t get where you need to go?  We have a word for this feeling that everyone has heard before: Stress. Everywhere you look people are stressed.  Western science has documented a whole host of ways that stress affects and damages our bodies.  Chronic stress plays a role in all of the top diseases we deal with today: Heart disease, Cancer, Stroke, Hypertension, Chronic inflammatory disorders, the list goes on.  Liver Qi stagnation is TCM’s way of talking about the presence of stress in the body.

The Liver in TCM

The Liver system in TCM is considered the General of the body’s Qi.  So like a military General, the Liver directs the Qi to move in the body (along with the Lung, which is often overlooked.  Many people also exhibit Lung Qi stagnation.)  If the Liver is weak or deficient, it can’t direct the Qi and you get stagnation.  Or, if the Liver is overburdened by toxins, or damp-heat as we call them, then it also cannot direct the Qi, leading to stagnation.

Mild Liver Qi stagnation might just feel like agitation or irritability, or maybe you find yourself sighing a lot more than usual.  Over time, Qi stagnation can cause more serious discomfort.

Here are a few ways that Liver Qi stagnation shows up over time:

Digestive difficulty that is worse with stress:  This is also known as “Liver overacting on Spleen”.  This might show up as stomach pain, abdominal distention, loss of appetite, acid regurgitation, bloating after eating, nausea, inflammatory bowel, alternating constipation and diarrhea.

Pain:  Headaches, neck and shoulder tension, low back pain, menstrual cramping, pain or heaviness in the sides, piriformis syndrome.  All of these types of pain have at least an element of Qi stagnation, possibly Liver Qi stagnation.  Chinese medicine says “Where there is stagnation, there is pain”.

Heat signs in the body:  Over time, like friction, stagnation turns to heat.  This may manifest as burning eyes, irritability, angry outbursts, tinnitus, throbbing headaches, red face, bitter taste in the mouth, constipation, or bleeding.

PMS symptoms:  The Liver has a special relationship with the blood and the menses, so the irritability, breast tenderness, headaches, and cramping that women can experience before their periods are all signs of Liver Qi stagnation.

So what can you do about Liver Qi stagnation?

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