Upper Abdominal Oppressionaccording to TCM

What is Upper Abdominal Oppression?

Upper abdominal oppression describes a sensation of pressure, tightness, or discomfort in the area between the chest and the navel. It is often experienced as a feeling of constriction that can affect breathing and digestion, making the individual feel as though they cannot fully expand their abdomen.

This condition can vary in intensity, from a mild, barely noticeable discomfort to a severe, debilitating sensation that impacts daily activities and quality of life.

How does TCM View Upper Abdominal Oppression?

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), upper abdominal oppression is seen through a holistic lens, attributed to imbalances within the body's organ systems and the flow of Qi (vital energy).

TCM practitioners believe that this symptom arises from disharmony between the Liver and Spleen, obstruction by Phlegm, or the Stagnation of Qi, reflecting an underlying imbalance that requires a targeted treatment strategy. Recognizing the specific pattern of disharmony is crucial for effective intervention, emphasizing the importance of a personalized approach in TCM.

Root Causes of Upper Abdominal Oppression in TCM

TCM identifies several potential causes for upper abdominal oppression, focusing on patterns of disharmony within the body. One common cause is Phlegm-Heat, characterized by symptoms like a feeling of oppression in the epigastrium and mucous in feces. Formulas such as Wen Dan Tang and Ding Chuan Tang are recommended for their properties in drying Dampness and transforming Phlegm.

Another cause is Obstruction Of the Spleen By Dampness with Liver Qi Stagnation, presenting as a feeling of oppression and fullness of the epigastrium and irritability. Ping Wei San and Dang Gui Shao Yao San are used to transform Dampness and invigorate Blood, addressing both the obstruction and the underlying Liver Qi Stagnation.

Explore below more details about what might cause Upper abdominal oppression according to TCM.

  • By Syndrome
  • By Organ
  • Liver
  • Stomach
  • Spleen
Detailed description of the cause

Heat

In TCM "Heat" signifies an excess of Yang energy, leading to an imbalance where heat predominates over the body's cool Yin aspects. This condition is metaphorically akin to an internal over-heating. Symptoms indicative of Heat can include feelings of warmth, fever, sweating, irritability, red face, thirst with a preference for cold drinks, and a rapid pulse. The tongue may appear red with a yellow coating. Unlike the common interpretation of heat in terms of temperature, in TCM, it represents a state of hyperactivity or inflammation in the body.... see more

Heat Patterns That Can Lead to Upper Abdominal Oppression

Common Symptoms: Nausea Diarrhea Mucous In Feces Depression Flushed Face Restlessness Feeling Of Oppression Of The Chest Xerostomia

Pattern Name Relevant Symptoms Relevant Formulas
Phlegm-Heat A feeling of oppression in the epigastrium, Upper abdominal oppression, Mucous in feces, Depression Wen Dan Tang | Ding Chuan Tang | Qing Qi Hua Tan Wan | Gun Tan Wan
Obstruction Of the Spleen By Dampness with Liver Qi Stagnation Feeling of oppression and fullness of the epigastrium, Upper abdominal oppression, Nausea, Lack of appetite, Diarrhea, Feeling of heaviness, Dry mouth without desire to drink, Dull shallow face, Irritability, Upper abdominal distension, Hypochondriac distention, Hypochondriac pain... see more Ping Wei San | Dang Gui Shao Yao San
Damp-Heat in Stomach and Spleen A feeling of oppression in chest and epigastrium, Head and body heaviness, Upper abdominal oppression, Nausea, Diarrhea, Fever not reduced by sweating... see more Lian Po Yin | Ge Hua Jie Cheng San | Sheng Yang Yi Wei Tang
Detailed description of the cause

Phlegm

In TCM "Phlegm" as a pattern of disharmony is a complex concept that extends beyond the physical manifestation of mucus. It represents a pathological factor that can disrupt the flow of Qi (vital energy) and blood, leading to various health issues. Phlegm in TCM is seen as a sticky, turbid substance arising from the body's inability to metabolize fluids properly, often due to a dysfunction of the spleen. It's not only associated with respiratory problems like cough and congestion but also with systemic issues. Symptoms can include a feeling of heaviness, mental cloudiness, dizziness, and in some cases, the formation of lumps or masses. Phlegm can even be "invisible," contributing to emotional disturbances like depression or stress. ... see more

Phlegm Patterns That Can Lead to Upper Abdominal Oppression

Common Symptoms: Depression Mucous In Feces Flushed Face Restlessness Feeling Of Oppression Of The Chest Xerostomia Copious Thick Yellow Sputum Focal Distention

Pattern Name Relevant Symptoms Relevant Formulas
Phlegm-Heat A feeling of oppression in the epigastrium, Upper abdominal oppression, Mucous in feces, Depression Wen Dan Tang | Ding Chuan Tang | Qing Qi Hua Tan Wan | Gun Tan Wan
Qi-Phlegm A feeling of oppression in chest and epigastrium, Globus sensation, Dysphagia, Upper abdominal oppression, Irritability, Mood swings, Depression... see more Ban Xia Hou Pu Tang
Detailed description of the cause

Qi Stagnation

Qi Stagnation in TCM is like having a traffic jam in your body's energy system. Qi, the vital life force that flows through your body, is supposed to move smoothly to maintain health and balance. But with Qi Stagnation, this flow gets blocked or slowed down, like cars stuck on a highway. This can lead to symptoms like feeling stressed, emotional mood swings, and physical discomfort, often described as a feeling of fullness or tightness, especially in the chest or abdomen. It's as though the body's internal energy circulation is disrupted, causing various issues. TCM sees this as an energy flow problem, different from modern medicine's focus on specific physiological processes.... see more

Qi Stagnation Patterns That Can Lead to Upper Abdominal Oppression

Common Symptoms: Irritability Nausea Lack Of Appetite Diarrhea Feeling Of Heaviness Dry Mouth Without Desire To Drink Dull Shallow Face Upper Abdominal Distension

Pattern Name Relevant Symptoms Relevant Formulas
Obstruction Of the Spleen By Dampness with Liver Qi Stagnation Feeling of oppression and fullness of the epigastrium, Upper abdominal oppression, Nausea, Lack of appetite, Diarrhea, Feeling of heaviness, Dry mouth without desire to drink, Dull shallow face, Irritability, Upper abdominal distension, Hypochondriac distention, Hypochondriac pain... see more Ping Wei San | Dang Gui Shao Yao San
Qi-Phlegm A feeling of oppression in chest and epigastrium, Globus sensation, Dysphagia, Upper abdominal oppression, Irritability, Mood swings, Depression... see more Ban Xia Hou Pu Tang
Detailed description of the cause

Dampness

"Dampness" in TCM is a concept that describes a pattern of disharmony where the body accumulates excess moisture. Imagine the heavy, sticky feeling you get on a very humid day; that's similar to what dampness feels like internally. It can manifest as a sense of heaviness, bloating, sluggishness, or even a foggy mind. This condition is often thought to arise from environmental factors like living in a damp place, dietary habits that promote moisture in the body, or internal imbalances that hinder the body's ability to process fluids properly. In TCM, dampness can obstruct the normal flow of energy and fluids in the body, leading to various symptoms.... see more

Dampness Patterns That Can Lead to Upper Abdominal Oppression

Common Symptoms: Nausea Diarrhea Lack Of Appetite Feeling Of Heaviness Dry Mouth Without Desire To Drink Dull Shallow Face Irritability Upper Abdominal Distension

Pattern Name Relevant Symptoms Relevant Formulas
Obstruction Of the Spleen By Dampness with Liver Qi Stagnation Feeling of oppression and fullness of the epigastrium, Upper abdominal oppression, Nausea, Lack of appetite, Diarrhea, Feeling of heaviness, Dry mouth without desire to drink, Dull shallow face, Irritability, Upper abdominal distension, Hypochondriac distention, Hypochondriac pain... see more Ping Wei San | Dang Gui Shao Yao San
Damp-Heat in Stomach and Spleen A feeling of oppression in chest and epigastrium, Head and body heaviness, Upper abdominal oppression, Nausea, Diarrhea, Fever not reduced by sweating... see more Lian Po Yin | Ge Hua Jie Cheng San | Sheng Yang Yi Wei Tang
Detailed description of the cause

Qi Rebellion

Rebellious Qi in TCM is a bit like having a rebel inside your body. Qi, which is the vital energy flowing through your body, is supposed to move in certain directions to keep everything in balance and working well. But with Rebellious Qi, this energy decides to go the opposite way. Think of it like a river flowing upstream instead of downstream. This can cause various issues like heartburn, coughing, or even headaches. It's as if the body's natural flow is disrupted, creating a kind of internal chaos. TCM focuses on correcting this flow, restoring order and balance.... see more

Qi Rebellion Patterns That Can Lead to Upper Abdominal Oppression

Pattern Name Relevant Symptoms Relevant Formulas
Rebellious Liver Qi invading the Stomach A feeling of oppression in the epigastrium, Irritability, Upper abdominal pain, Upper abdominal distension, Hypochondriac pain, Hypochondriac distention, Upper abdominal oppression, Acid reflux, Hiccups, Belching, Nausea or vomiting, Sighing, Weak limbs... see more Xuan Fu Dai Zhe Tang | Ban Xia Hou Pu Tang | Si Mo Tang | Ju Pi Zhu Ru Tang | Ding Xiang Shi Di Tang
Detailed description of the cause

Liver

In TCM the Liver is viewed as the organ responsible for the smooth flow of Qi, Blood, and emotions throughout the body. It plays a key role in regulating mood, storing blood, supporting digestion, and ensuring the health of tendons and eyes. When the Liver malfunctions or is imbalanced in TCM, it can lead to a range of issues such as irritability, mood swings, menstrual irregularities, eye problems, and muscular stiffness or pain. A malfunctioning Liver in TCM reflects not only physical disturbances but also emotional and mental disharmony, emphasizing the holistic approach of TCM in addressing health and wellness.... see more

Liver Patterns That Can Lead to Upper Abdominal Oppression

Common Symptoms: Irritability Upper Abdominal Distension Hypochondriac Pain Hypochondriac Distention Upper Abdominal Pain Acid Reflux Hiccups Belching

Pattern Name Relevant Symptoms Relevant Formulas
Rebellious Liver Qi invading the Stomach A feeling of oppression in the epigastrium, Irritability, Upper abdominal pain, Upper abdominal distension, Hypochondriac pain, Hypochondriac distention, Upper abdominal oppression, Acid reflux, Hiccups, Belching, Nausea or vomiting, Sighing, Weak limbs... see more Xuan Fu Dai Zhe Tang | Ban Xia Hou Pu Tang | Si Mo Tang | Ju Pi Zhu Ru Tang | Ding Xiang Shi Di Tang
Obstruction Of the Spleen By Dampness with Liver Qi Stagnation Feeling of oppression and fullness of the epigastrium, Upper abdominal oppression, Nausea, Lack of appetite, Diarrhea, Feeling of heaviness, Dry mouth without desire to drink, Dull shallow face, Irritability, Upper abdominal distension, Hypochondriac distention, Hypochondriac pain... see more Ping Wei San | Dang Gui Shao Yao San
Detailed description of the cause

Stomach

In TCM the Stomach is regarded as the "sea of nourishment," pivotal for digesting food and transforming it into Qi and blood. It works closely with the Spleen to distribute these essential nutrients throughout the body. When the Stomach is out of balance or malfunctions in TCM, it often leads to digestive problems such as bloating, nausea, vomiting, poor appetite, or a feeling of fullness. There may also be issues like acid reflux or a sour taste in the mouth. Emotionally, an imbalanced Stomach can contribute to excessive worry and overthinking, reflecting the TCM belief that physical and emotional well-being are deeply interconnected.... see more

Stomach Patterns That Can Lead to Upper Abdominal Oppression

Common Symptoms: Irritability Upper Abdominal Pain Upper Abdominal Distension Hypochondriac Pain Hypochondriac Distention Acid Reflux Hiccups Belching

Pattern Name Relevant Symptoms Relevant Formulas
Rebellious Liver Qi invading the Stomach A feeling of oppression in the epigastrium, Irritability, Upper abdominal pain, Upper abdominal distension, Hypochondriac pain, Hypochondriac distention, Upper abdominal oppression, Acid reflux, Hiccups, Belching, Nausea or vomiting, Sighing, Weak limbs... see more Xuan Fu Dai Zhe Tang | Ban Xia Hou Pu Tang | Si Mo Tang | Ju Pi Zhu Ru Tang | Ding Xiang Shi Di Tang
Damp-Heat in Stomach and Spleen A feeling of oppression in chest and epigastrium, Head and body heaviness, Upper abdominal oppression, Nausea, Diarrhea, Fever not reduced by sweating... see more Lian Po Yin | Ge Hua Jie Cheng San | Sheng Yang Yi Wei Tang
Detailed description of the cause

Spleen

In TCM the Spleen plays a vital role in digestion and transformation, converting food into energy and nutrients, and overseeing the distribution of Qi and Blood. It's also crucial in maintaining the health of muscles and limbs and ensuring the blood remains within the vessels. When the Spleen malfunctions in TCM, it can lead to a variety of issues such as digestive disorders, fatigue, weak muscles, bloating, and a feeling of heaviness. It can also cause a pale complexion, poor appetite, and a tendency to bruise easily. Emotionally, a Spleen imbalance is often associated with excessive worry or overthinking, reflecting its role in the interplay between physical and mental health.... see more

Spleen Patterns That Can Lead to Upper Abdominal Oppression

Common Symptoms: Nausea Diarrhea Lack Of Appetite Feeling Of Heaviness Dry Mouth Without Desire To Drink Dull Shallow Face Irritability Upper Abdominal Distension

Pattern Name Relevant Symptoms Relevant Formulas
Obstruction Of the Spleen By Dampness with Liver Qi Stagnation Feeling of oppression and fullness of the epigastrium, Upper abdominal oppression, Nausea, Lack of appetite, Diarrhea, Feeling of heaviness, Dry mouth without desire to drink, Dull shallow face, Irritability, Upper abdominal distension, Hypochondriac distention, Hypochondriac pain... see more Ping Wei San | Dang Gui Shao Yao San
Damp-Heat in Stomach and Spleen A feeling of oppression in chest and epigastrium, Head and body heaviness, Upper abdominal oppression, Nausea, Diarrhea, Fever not reduced by sweating... see more Lian Po Yin | Ge Hua Jie Cheng San | Sheng Yang Yi Wei Tang

TCM Herbal Formulas for Upper Abdominal Oppression

To treat upper abdominal oppression, TCM practitioners select formulas based on the identified pattern of disharmony. For Phlegm-Heat, Wen Dan Tang and Ding Chuan Tang are chosen for their effectiveness in clearing Heat and transforming Phlegm.

For cases involving Dampness obstruction and Liver Qi Stagnation, Ping Wei San and Dang Gui Shao Yao San are preferred for their ability to harmonize the Stomach and invigorate Blood. This targeted approach ensures that treatment addresses not only the symptoms but also the root cause of the discomfort, reflecting TCM's holistic perspective on healing.

Explore below some TCM herbal formulas used to address upper abdominal oppression, organized by cause and by formula type.

  • By Cause
  • By Formula Type
  • Formulas for a rebellious qi
  • Formulas that clear heat and transform phlegm
  • Formulas that promote qi movement
  • Formulas that dry dampness and transform phlegm
  • Formulas that transform dampness and harmonize stomach
  • Formulas that invigorate blood and dispel blood stagnation
  • Formulas that clear heat and expel dampness
  • Formulas that reduce food stagnation with tonification
  • Formulas that tonify qi

All Formulas Recommended for Upper Abdominal Oppression Caused by Heat

Formula Patterns Suitable For
Wen Dan Tang Phlegm-Heat
Ding Chuan Tang Phlegm-Heat
Qing Qi Hua Tan Wan Phlegm-Heat
Gun Tan Wan Phlegm-Heat
Ping Wei San Obstruction Of the Spleen By Dampness with Liver Qi Stagnation
Dang Gui Shao Yao San Obstruction Of the Spleen By Dampness with Liver Qi Stagnation
Lian Po Yin Damp-Heat in Stomach and Spleen
Ge Hua Jie Cheng San Damp-Heat in Stomach and Spleen
Sheng Yang Yi Wei Tang Damp-Heat in Stomach and Spleen

All Formulas Recommended for Upper Abdominal Oppression Caused by Phlegm

Formula Patterns Suitable For
Ban Xia Hou Pu Tang Qi-Phlegm
Wen Dan Tang Phlegm-Heat
Ding Chuan Tang Phlegm-Heat
Qing Qi Hua Tan Wan Phlegm-Heat
Gun Tan Wan Phlegm-Heat

All Formulas Recommended for Upper Abdominal Oppression Caused by Qi Stagnation

Formula Patterns Suitable For
Ban Xia Hou Pu Tang Qi-Phlegm
Ping Wei San Obstruction Of the Spleen By Dampness with Liver Qi Stagnation
Dang Gui Shao Yao San Obstruction Of the Spleen By Dampness with Liver Qi Stagnation

All Formulas Recommended for Upper Abdominal Oppression Caused by Dampness

Formula Patterns Suitable For
Ping Wei San Obstruction Of the Spleen By Dampness with Liver Qi Stagnation
Dang Gui Shao Yao San Obstruction Of the Spleen By Dampness with Liver Qi Stagnation
Lian Po Yin Damp-Heat in Stomach and Spleen
Ge Hua Jie Cheng San Damp-Heat in Stomach and Spleen
Sheng Yang Yi Wei Tang Damp-Heat in Stomach and Spleen

All Formulas Recommended for Upper Abdominal Oppression Caused by Qi Rebellion

Formula Patterns Suitable For
Ban Xia Hou Pu Tang Rebellious Liver Qi invading the Stomach
Xuan Fu Dai Zhe Tang Rebellious Liver Qi invading the Stomach
Si Mo Tang Rebellious Liver Qi invading the Stomach
Ju Pi Zhu Ru Tang Rebellious Liver Qi invading the Stomach
Ding Xiang Shi Di Tang Rebellious Liver Qi invading the Stomach

All "formulas for a rebellious qi" recommended for upper abdominal oppression

Formula Patterns Suitable For (if applicable)
Ding Chuan Tang Phlegm-Heat
Xuan Fu Dai Zhe Tang Rebellious Liver Qi invading the Stomach
Ju Pi Zhu Ru Tang Rebellious Liver Qi invading the Stomach
Ding Xiang Shi Di Tang Rebellious Liver Qi invading the Stomach

All "formulas that promote qi movement" recommended for upper abdominal oppression

Formula Patterns Suitable For (if applicable)
Ban Xia Hou Pu Tang Rebellious Liver Qi invading the Stomach, Qi-Phlegm
Si Mo Tang Rebellious Liver Qi invading the Stomach

All "formulas that clear heat and transform phlegm" recommended for upper abdominal oppression

Formula Patterns Suitable For (if applicable)
Qing Qi Hua Tan Wan Phlegm-Heat
Gun Tan Wan Phlegm-Heat

TCM Herbs for Upper Abdominal Oppression

Explore below some TCM herbs used to address upper abdominal oppression, organized by herb category.

  • By Herb Category
  • Cool herbs that transform phlegm and stop cough
  • Herbs that regulate qi
  • Warm herbs that transform phlegm and stop cough
  • Aromatic herbs that transform dampness
  • Herbs that stabilize and bind
  • Warm/Acrid herbs that release the exterior
  • Herbs that warm the interior and/or expel cold
  • Tonic herbs for blood deficiency
  • Herbs that clear heat and dry dampness
  • Herbs that stop bleeding
  • Tonic herbs for qi deficiency

"Cool herbs that transform Phlegm and stop Cough" recommended for upper abdominal oppression

Herb Formulas they belong to (if applicable)
Arisaema With Bile (Dan Nan Xing) Qing Qi Hua Tan Wan
Chlorite Schist (Meng Shi) Gun Tan Wan
Bamboo Shavings (Zhu Ru) Ju Pi Zhu Ru Tang

"Herbs that regulate Qi" recommended for upper abdominal oppression

Herb Formulas they belong to (if applicable)
Lindera Roots (Wu Yao) Si Mo Tang
Tangerine Peel (Chen Pi) Ju Pi Zhu Ru Tang
Persimmon Calyxes (Shi Di) Ding Xiang Shi Di Tang

"Warm herbs that transform Phlegm and stop Cough" recommended for upper abdominal oppression

Herb Formulas they belong to (if applicable)
Crow-Dipper Rhizomes (Ban Xia) Wen Dan Tang | Ban Xia Hou Pu Tang
Inula Flowers (Xuan Fu Hua) Xuan Fu Dai Zhe Tang

"Aromatic herbs that transform Dampness" recommended for upper abdominal oppression

Herb Formulas they belong to (if applicable)
Houpu Magnolia Bark (Hou Pu) Ban Xia Hou Pu Tang | Lian Po Yin
Black Atractylodes Rhizomes (Cang Zhu) Ping Wei San