Upper Abdominal Painaccording to TCM

What is Upper Abdominal Pain?

Upper abdominal pain is a common symptom that affects the area above the navel, often reflecting disorders in the upper digestive tract. This discomfort can range from mild to severe and may manifest in various forms, such as epigastric pain, a burning sensation, or a sharp ache in the hypochondriac region. The pain may be intermittent, worsen with pressure, or sometimes alleviate with vomiting, indicating diverse underlying conditions.

How does TCM View Upper Abdominal Pain?

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) interprets upper abdominal pain through the lens of Qi (energy) flow, organ health, and the balance of Yin and Yang. Unlike Western medicine, which often attributes pain to specific organ pathologies, TCM considers a broader spectrum of imbalances across the body's energy pathways.

Identifying the correct disharmony pattern is crucial for effective treatment, as TCM believes that each symptom, including pain, is a signal of an underlying imbalance.

Root Causes of Upper Abdominal Pain in TCM

TCM recognizes several patterns that can lead to upper abdominal pain, each associated with different symptoms and underlying imbalances. For example, Qi Stagnation, particularly Liver Qi Stagnation, can manifest as upper abdominal discomfort alongside emotional symptoms like irritability. Damp-Heat in the Stomach is another common cause, presenting with symptoms like nausea, fullness, and a feeling of heaviness.

Additionally, Phlegm accumulation, Qi Rebellion, and Yin Deficiency are recognized patterns, each contributing to the manifestation of pain in unique ways. Understanding these patterns is essential for tailoring the treatment to the individual's specific TCM diagnosis.

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

  • By Syndrome
  • By Organ
  • Heat
  • Qi Stagnation
  • Phlegm
  • Dampness
  • Qi Rebellion
  • Yin Deficiency
  • Blood Stasis
  • Yin Excess
  • Cold
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 Pain

Common Symptoms: Feeling Hot Bitter Taste In The Mouth Upper Abdominal Fullness Feeling Of Heaviness Dry Mouth Without Desire To Drink Nausea Dull Yellow Complexion Sticky Taste In The Mouth

Pattern Name Relevant Symptoms Relevant Formulas
Damp-Heat in the Stomach Epigastric pain, Upper abdominal pain, Upper abdominal fullness, Feeling of heaviness, Face pain, Congested nose, Thick nasal discharge, Dry mouth without desire to drink, Nausea, Feeling hot, Dull yellow complexion, Sticky taste in the mouth... see more Lian Po Yin | Ge Hua Jie Cheng San
Phlegm-Heat in the Lungs Epigastric pain, Coughing, Shortness of breath, Wheezing, Stifling sensation in the chest, Sputum, Feeling hot, Thirst, Head and body heaviness, Dizziness, Copious thick yellow sputum... see more Xiao Xian Xiong Tang
Damp-Heat invading the Spleen Abdominal and epigastric pain, Lack of appetite, Feeling of heaviness, Dry mouth without desire to drink, Nausea or vomiting, Malodorous diarrhea, Anal burning, Feeling hot, Scanty and dark urine, Low grade fever, Dull headache, Dull yellow complexion, Yellow sclera, Oily sweat, Itchy rashes, Bitter taste in the mouth, Upper abdominal fullness, Upper abdominal pain... see more Lian Po Yin
Heat in Lessor Yang Burning abdominal pain, Fever, Bitter taste in the mouth, Abdominal pain, Diarrhea, Sticky taste in the mouth, Malodorous diarrhea, Anal irritation, Upper abdominal burning pain, Tenesmus... see more Huang Qin Tang
Stomach Heat or Fire Burning epigastric pain, Upper abdominal burning pain, Excessive thirst, Craving for cold beverages, Restlessness, Dry stools, Xerostomia, Mouth ulcers, Acid reflux, Nausea, Vomiting after eating, Excessive hunger, Halitosis, Feeling hot, Acne... see more Tiao Wei Cheng Qi Tang | Qing Wei San | Xie Huang San | Fei Er Wan | Hua Ban Tang
Liver Qi Stagnation that transforms into Heat Intermittent epigastric pain, Intermittent upper abdominal pain, Hernia-Related pain, Dysmenorrhea exacerbated by hot food or drinks, Irritability, Bitter taste in the mouth, Peptic ulcer, Chronic gastritis, Hepatitis, Cholecystitis... see more Jin Ling Zi San
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 Pain

Common Symptoms: Irritability Upper Abdominal Distension Belching Nausea Vomit Hiccups Hepatitis Chronic Gastritis

Pattern Name Relevant Symptoms Relevant Formulas
Stomach Qi Stagnation Epigastric pain, Upper abdominal pain, Upper abdominal distension, Belching, Nausea, Vomit, Hiccups, Irritability... see more Ban Xia Hou Pu Tang | Zuo Jin Wan
Liver Qi Stagnation Epigastic pain, Hypochondriac distention, Chest distension, Upper abdominal distension, Abdominal distention, Sighing, Melancholia, Depression, Mood swings, Irregular periods, Globus sensation, Pre menstrual breast distension, Pre menstrual tension, Anxiety, Anger... see more Xiao Yao San | Jia Wei Xiao Yao San | Yue Ju Wan | Chai Hu Shu Gan San | Yi Guan Jian
Liver Qi Stagnation that transforms into Heat Intermittent epigastric pain, Intermittent upper abdominal pain, Hernia-Related pain, Dysmenorrhea exacerbated by hot food or drinks, Irritability, Bitter taste in the mouth, Peptic ulcer, Chronic gastritis, Hepatitis, Cholecystitis... see more Jin Ling Zi San
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 Pain

Common Symptoms: Frequent And Urgent Urination Urinary Dysfunction Hematuria Gallstones Kidney Stones Back Pain Abdominal Pain Coughing

Pattern Name Relevant Symptoms Relevant Formulas
Phlegm in Kidneys or Gallbladder Epigastric pain, Frequent and urgent urination, Urinary dysfunction, Hematuria Si Ni San | Pai Shi Tang
Phlegm-Heat in the Lungs Epigastric pain, Coughing, Shortness of breath, Wheezing, Stifling sensation in the chest, Sputum, Feeling hot, Thirst, Head and body heaviness, Dizziness, Copious thick yellow sputum... see more Xiao Xian Xiong 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 Pain

Common Symptoms: Upper Abdominal Fullness Feeling Of Heaviness Dry Mouth Without Desire To Drink Feeling Hot Dull Yellow Complexion Face Pain Congested Nose Thick Nasal Discharge

Pattern Name Relevant Symptoms Relevant Formulas
Damp-Heat in the Stomach Epigastric pain, Upper abdominal pain, Upper abdominal fullness, Feeling of heaviness, Face pain, Congested nose, Thick nasal discharge, Dry mouth without desire to drink, Nausea, Feeling hot, Dull yellow complexion, Sticky taste in the mouth... see more Lian Po Yin | Ge Hua Jie Cheng San
Damp-Heat invading the Spleen Abdominal and epigastric pain, Lack of appetite, Feeling of heaviness, Dry mouth without desire to drink, Nausea or vomiting, Malodorous diarrhea, Anal burning, Feeling hot, Scanty and dark urine, Low grade fever, Dull headache, Dull yellow complexion, Yellow sclera, Oily sweat, Itchy rashes, Bitter taste in the mouth, Upper abdominal fullness, Upper abdominal pain... see more Lian Po Yin
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 Pain

Pattern Name Relevant Symptoms Relevant Formulas
Rebellious Liver Qi invading the Stomach Epigastric pain, 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

Yin Deficiency

Yin deficiency in TCM is a pattern of disharmony characterized by a depletion of the body's Yin energy, which represents the cooling, moistening, and nurturing aspects of our physiology. This condition often arises from factors like chronic stress, overwork, insufficient rest, or prolonged illness. Symptoms of Yin deficiency can include a sensation of heat, especially in the afternoon or evening, night sweats, insomnia, a dry mouth or throat, and a red tongue with little coating. There might also be a general feeling of restlessness or irritability. Since Yin is essential for balancing the body's active and warm Yang energy, its deficiency leads to a relative excess of Yang, manifesting as heat or dryness symptoms.... see more

Yin Deficiency Patterns That Can Lead to Upper Abdominal Pain

Pattern Name Relevant Symptoms Relevant Formulas
Stomach Yin Deficiency Epigastric pain, Epigastic pain, Lack of appetite, Preference for sipping, Slight abdominal distension after eating... see more Mai Men Dong Tang | Yi Wei Tang | Shen Ling Bai Zhu San
Detailed description of the cause

Blood Stasis

Blood Stasis in TCM is a concept where the blood flow in the body is not as smooth or efficient as it should be. Imagine a river that's supposed to flow freely, but instead, it's getting blocked or moving too slowly in some parts. This can lead to various health issues, like pain that feels sharp or stabbing, dark bruises, and a complexion that looks purplish. TCM believes that good health relies on the smooth and vibrant flow of Qi and blood throughout the body, so when blood gets stuck, it's like a traffic jam in your body, leading to discomfort or health problems.... see more

Blood Stasis Patterns That Can Lead to Upper Abdominal Pain

Pattern Name Relevant Symptoms Relevant Formulas
Stomach Blood Stagnation Epigastric pain, Nocturnal epigastric pain, Abdominal pain worsened by pressure, Nausea or vomiting, Potential vomiting of blood, Hematochezia... see more Xue Fu Zhu Yu Tang
Detailed description of the cause

Yin Excess

Yin Excess in TCM is a pattern of disharmony characterized by an overabundance of Yin energy, leading to symptoms of dampness and coldness in the body. This condition often results from an imbalance where the cooling, moistening aspects of Yin overshadow the warm, active qualities of Yang energy. Symptoms can include a feeling of heaviness, lethargy, cold sensations, pale complexion, and possibly edema or fluid retention. Digestive issues such as poor appetite, bloating, and loose stools may also be present, reflecting the impact of excess Yin on the body's metabolic processes. Treatment in TCM for Yin Excess focuses on reducing the excess Yin and stimulating Yang energy to restore balance. ... see more

Yin Excess Patterns That Can Lead to Upper Abdominal Pain

Pattern Name Relevant Symptoms Relevant Formulas
Yin Excess Epigastric pain worsen by pressure, Absence of thirst, Slow and forceful movement, Polyuria, Feeling of oppression of the chest, Nausea, Excessive vaginal discharge, Lack of appetite, Pain relieved by heat, Chills, Cold extremities, Pale urine... see more Wu Ling San | Wu Pi Yin
Detailed description of the cause

Cold

In TCM "Cold" as a pattern of disharmony refers to a specific type of imbalance within the body's systems, often linked to a deficiency or weakness. It's not about feeling physically cold or having a common cold, but rather a metaphorical description of certain symptoms and underlying conditions. When a TCM practitioner says someone suffers from "Cold," it usually implies that the body's Yang energy, which is warm and active, is insufficient or overpowered by Yin energy, which is cool and passive. Symptoms of Cold in TCM can include a general feeling of coldness, cold limbs, pale complexion, low energy, slow metabolism, and a preference for warmth. ... see more

Cold Patterns That Can Lead to Upper Abdominal Pain

Pattern Name Relevant Symptoms Relevant Formulas
Cold invading the Stomach Severe epigastric pain, Severe upper abdominal pain, Chills, Cold extremities, Desire for hot beverages and foods, Vomiting clear liquid, Nausea, Deterioration after cold beverages... see more Liang Fu Wan | Huo Xiang Zheng Qi San | Wu Zhu Yu Tang
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 Pain

Common Symptoms: Nausea Irritability Acid Reflux Hiccups Belching Feeling Hot Upper Abdominal Distension Nausea Or Vomiting

Pattern Name Relevant Symptoms Relevant Formulas
Damp-Heat in the Stomach Epigastric pain, Upper abdominal pain, Upper abdominal fullness, Feeling of heaviness, Face pain, Congested nose, Thick nasal discharge, Dry mouth without desire to drink, Nausea, Feeling hot, Dull yellow complexion, Sticky taste in the mouth... see more Lian Po Yin | Ge Hua Jie Cheng San
Rebellious Liver Qi invading the Stomach Epigastric pain, 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
Stomach Qi Stagnation Epigastric pain, Upper abdominal pain, Upper abdominal distension, Belching, Nausea, Vomit, Hiccups, Irritability... see more Ban Xia Hou Pu Tang | Zuo Jin Wan
Stomach Yin Deficiency Epigastric pain, Epigastic pain, Lack of appetite, Preference for sipping, Slight abdominal distension after eating... see more Mai Men Dong Tang | Yi Wei Tang | Shen Ling Bai Zhu San
Stomach Blood Stagnation Epigastric pain, Nocturnal epigastric pain, Abdominal pain worsened by pressure, Nausea or vomiting, Potential vomiting of blood, Hematochezia... see more Xue Fu Zhu Yu Tang
Stomach Heat or Fire Burning epigastric pain, Upper abdominal burning pain, Excessive thirst, Craving for cold beverages, Restlessness, Dry stools, Xerostomia, Mouth ulcers, Acid reflux, Nausea, Vomiting after eating, Excessive hunger, Halitosis, Feeling hot, Acne... see more Tiao Wei Cheng Qi Tang | Qing Wei San | Xie Huang San | Fei Er Wan | Hua Ban Tang
Food Stagnation in the Stomach Fullness and pain of the epigastrium which are relieved by vomiting, Epigastric fullness and pain relieved by vomiting, Nausea, Vomiting of sour fluids, Halitosis, Acid reflux, Belching, Insomnia, Alternating diarrhea and constipation, Lack of appetite, Abdominal pain due to overeating... see more Bao He Wan | Zhi Shi Dao Zhi Wan | Gua Di San
Cold invading the Stomach Severe epigastric pain, Severe upper abdominal pain, Chills, Cold extremities, Desire for hot beverages and foods, Vomiting clear liquid, Nausea, Deterioration after cold beverages... see more Liang Fu Wan | Huo Xiang Zheng Qi San | Wu Zhu Yu 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 Pain

Common Symptoms: Irritability Upper Abdominal Distension Hypochondriac Pain Hypochondriac Distention Hiccups Belching Sighing Hepatitis

Pattern Name Relevant Symptoms Relevant Formulas
Rebellious Liver Qi invading the Stomach Epigastric pain, 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
Liver Qi Stagnation Epigastic pain, Hypochondriac distention, Chest distension, Upper abdominal distension, Abdominal distention, Sighing, Melancholia, Depression, Mood swings, Irregular periods, Globus sensation, Pre menstrual breast distension, Pre menstrual tension, Anxiety, Anger... see more Xiao Yao San | Jia Wei Xiao Yao San | Yue Ju Wan | Chai Hu Shu Gan San | Yi Guan Jian
Liver Qi Stagnation that transforms into Heat Intermittent epigastric pain, Intermittent upper abdominal pain, Hernia-Related pain, Dysmenorrhea exacerbated by hot food or drinks, Irritability, Bitter taste in the mouth, Peptic ulcer, Chronic gastritis, Hepatitis, Cholecystitis... see more Jin Ling Zi San
Detailed description of the cause

Gallbladder

In TCM the Gallbladder has a unique role in storing and excreting bile, but more importantly, it's seen as crucial for decision-making and courage. It's closely connected to the Liver, assisting in the smooth flow of Qi (vital energy) and supporting the Liver's role in maintaining emotional balance. When the Gallbladder malfunctions or is imbalanced in TCM, it can lead to physical symptoms like gallstones, jaundice, or a bitter taste in the mouth. There might also be digestive disturbances, particularly related to fat metabolism. On an emotional level, a Gallbladder disorder can manifest as indecisiveness, timidity, or a tendency to easily succumb to stress. These symptoms highlight the TCM view of the Gallbladder as integral to both physical processes and emotional resilience.... see more

Gallbladder Patterns That Can Lead to Upper Abdominal Pain

Pattern Name Relevant Symptoms Relevant Formulas
Phlegm in Kidneys or Gallbladder Epigastric pain, Frequent and urgent urination, Urinary dysfunction, Hematuria Si Ni San | Pai Shi Tang
Detailed description of the cause

Kidney

In TCM the Kidneys are regarded as the body's most fundamental reservoir of Essence, known as Jing, which influences growth, reproduction, and aging. They are not just organs for filtering blood, but a holistic system governing vital life forces. When the Kidneys malfunction in TCM, it can manifest as a variety of health issues, such as chronic fatigue, reproductive problems, imbalances in fluid metabolism leading to edema or dryness, lower back pain, and a sense of fear or insecurity.... see more

Kidney Patterns That Can Lead to Upper Abdominal Pain

Pattern Name Relevant Symptoms Relevant Formulas
Phlegm in Kidneys or Gallbladder Epigastric pain, Frequent and urgent urination, Urinary dysfunction, Hematuria Si Ni San | Pai Shi Tang
Detailed description of the cause

Lung

In TCM the Lungs are seen as the organ responsible for controlling Qi and respiration, as well as being a key part of the body's defensive system. They are thought to maintain the balance and flow of air and moisture, and are closely linked to the skin and hair. When the Lungs are imbalanced or malfunctioning in TCM, it can lead to respiratory issues like coughing or asthma, a weakened immune system, dry skin, and emotional disturbances such as sadness or grief. These symptoms are believed to arise from disruptions in the Lungs' ability to regulate Qi and protect the body, highlighting their central role in maintaining overall health and well-being.... see more

Lung Patterns That Can Lead to Upper Abdominal Pain

Pattern Name Relevant Symptoms Relevant Formulas
Phlegm-Heat in the Lungs Epigastric pain, Coughing, Shortness of breath, Wheezing, Stifling sensation in the chest, Sputum, Feeling hot, Thirst, Head and body heaviness, Dizziness, Copious thick yellow sputum... see more Xiao Xian Xiong 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 Pain

Pattern Name Relevant Symptoms Relevant Formulas
Damp-Heat invading the Spleen Abdominal and epigastric pain, Lack of appetite, Feeling of heaviness, Dry mouth without desire to drink, Nausea or vomiting, Malodorous diarrhea, Anal burning, Feeling hot, Scanty and dark urine, Low grade fever, Dull headache, Dull yellow complexion, Yellow sclera, Oily sweat, Itchy rashes, Bitter taste in the mouth, Upper abdominal fullness, Upper abdominal pain... see more Lian Po Yin

TCM Herbal Formulas for Upper Abdominal Pain

To address upper abdominal pain, TCM utilizes a variety of herbal formulas, each suited to counteract specific disharmonies. For Damp-Heat in the Stomach, formulas like Lian Po Yin, containing Huang Lian, work to clear Heat and expel Dampness. Phlegm-related discomfort might be treated with Si Ni San, which harmonizes the Liver-Spleen relationship.

For Qi Stagnation, Ban Xia Hou Pu Tang and Xiao Yao San are commonly prescribed to promote Qi movement and alleviate pain. When dealing with Rebellious Liver Qi affecting the Stomach, Xuan Fu Dai Zhe Tang offers relief by directing rebellious Qi downward. In cases of Stomach Yin Deficiency, Mai Men Dong Tang nourishes Yin and moistens Dryness, addressing the root cause of the pain.

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

  • By Cause
  • By Formula Type
  • Heat
  • Qi Stagnation
  • Phlegm
  • Dampness
  • Qi Rebellion
  • Yin Deficiency
  • Blood Stasis
  • Yin Excess
  • Cold
  • Formulas that promote qi movement
  • Formulas that harmonize liver-Spleen
  • Formulas for a rebellious qi
  • Formulas that clear heat from the organs
  • Formulas that reduce food accumulation and transform stagnation
  • Formulas that clear heat and expel dampness
  • Formulas that invigorate blood and dispel blood stagnation
  • Formulas that nourish yin and tonify
  • Formulas that promote urination and leach out dampness
  • Formulas that reduce food stagnation with tonification
  • Formulas that clear heat
  • Formulas that enrich yin and moisten dryness
  • Formulas that tonify qi
  • Formulas that clear heat and transform phlegm
  • Formulas that purge heat accumulation
  • Formulas that clear heat from qi and blood
  • Formulas that induce vomiting
  • Formulas that transform dampness and harmonize stomach
  • Formulas that warm the middle and dispel cold

All Formulas Recommended for Upper Abdominal Pain Caused by Heat

Formula Patterns Suitable For
Lian Po Yin Damp-Heat in the Stomach, Damp-Heat invading the Spleen
Ge Hua Jie Cheng San Damp-Heat in the Stomach
Xiao Xian Xiong Tang Phlegm-Heat in the Lungs
Jin Ling Zi San Liver Qi Stagnation that transforms into Heat
Huang Qin Tang Heat in Lessor Yang
Tiao Wei Cheng Qi Tang Stomach Heat or Fire
Qing Wei San Stomach Heat or Fire
Xie Huang San Stomach Heat or Fire
Fei Er Wan Stomach Heat or Fire
Hua Ban Tang Stomach Heat or Fire

All Formulas Recommended for Upper Abdominal Pain Caused by Qi Stagnation

Formula Patterns Suitable For
Ban Xia Hou Pu Tang Stomach Qi Stagnation
Zuo Jin Wan Stomach Qi Stagnation
Xiao Yao San Liver Qi Stagnation
Jia Wei Xiao Yao San Liver Qi Stagnation
Yue Ju Wan Liver Qi Stagnation
Chai Hu Shu Gan San Liver Qi Stagnation
Yi Guan Jian Liver Qi Stagnation
Jin Ling Zi San Liver Qi Stagnation that transforms into Heat

All Formulas Recommended for Upper Abdominal Pain Caused by Phlegm

Formula Patterns Suitable For
Si Ni San Phlegm in Kidneys or Gallbladder
Pai Shi Tang Phlegm in Kidneys or Gallbladder
Xiao Xian Xiong Tang Phlegm-Heat in the Lungs

All Formulas Recommended for Upper Abdominal Pain Caused by Dampness

Formula Patterns Suitable For
Lian Po Yin Damp-Heat in the Stomach, Damp-Heat invading the Spleen
Ge Hua Jie Cheng San Damp-Heat in the Stomach

All Formulas Recommended for Upper Abdominal Pain 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 Recommended for Upper Abdominal Pain Caused by Yin Deficiency

Formula Patterns Suitable For
Mai Men Dong Tang Stomach Yin Deficiency
Yi Wei Tang Stomach Yin Deficiency
Shen Ling Bai Zhu San Stomach Yin Deficiency

All Formulas Recommended for Upper Abdominal Pain Caused by Yin Excess

Formula Patterns Suitable For
Wu Ling San Yin Excess
Wu Pi Yin Yin Excess

All Formulas Recommended for Upper Abdominal Pain Caused by Cold

Formula Patterns Suitable For
Liang Fu Wan Cold invading the Stomach
Huo Xiang Zheng Qi San Cold invading the Stomach
Wu Zhu Yu Tang Cold invading the Stomach

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

Formula Patterns Suitable For (if applicable)
Ban Xia Hou Pu Tang Rebellious Liver Qi invading the Stomach, Stomach Qi Stagnation
Si Mo Tang Rebellious Liver Qi invading the Stomach
Yue Ju Wan Liver Qi Stagnation
Chai Hu Shu Gan San Liver Qi Stagnation
Jin Ling Zi San Liver Qi Stagnation that transforms into Heat
Liang Fu Wan Cold invading the Stomach

All "formulas that clear heat and expel dampness" recommended for upper abdominal pain

Formula Patterns Suitable For (if applicable)
Lian Po Yin Damp-Heat in the Stomach, Damp-Heat invading the Spleen
Pai Shi Tang Phlegm in Kidneys or Gallbladder

All "formulas that harmonize liver-Spleen" recommended for upper abdominal pain

Formula Patterns Suitable For (if applicable)
Si Ni San Phlegm in Kidneys or Gallbladder
Xiao Yao San Liver Qi Stagnation
Jia Wei Xiao Yao San Liver Qi Stagnation

All "formulas that clear heat from the organs" recommended for upper abdominal pain

Formula Patterns Suitable For (if applicable)
Huang Qin Tang Heat in Lessor Yang
Qing Wei San Stomach Heat or Fire
Xie Huang San Stomach Heat or Fire

All "formulas that reduce food accumulation and transform stagnation" recommended for upper abdominal pain

Formula Patterns Suitable For (if applicable)
Fei Er Wan Stomach Heat or Fire
Bao He Wan Food Stagnation in the Stomach
Zhi Shi Dao Zhi Wan Food Stagnation in the Stomach

All "formulas that nourish yin and tonify" recommended for upper abdominal pain

Formula Patterns Suitable For (if applicable)
Yi Wei Tang Stomach Yin Deficiency
Yi Guan Jian Liver Qi Stagnation

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

Formula Patterns Suitable For (if applicable)
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 invigorate blood and dispel blood stagnation" recommended for upper abdominal pain

Formula Patterns Suitable For (if applicable)
Xue Fu Zhu Yu Tang Stomach Blood Stagnation
Shi Xiao San Not applicable

All "formulas that promote urination and leach out dampness" recommended for upper abdominal pain

Formula Patterns Suitable For (if applicable)
Wu Ling San Yin Excess
Wu Pi Yin Yin Excess

Acupoints for Upper Abdominal Pain

TCM also incorporates acupuncture as a method to relieve upper abdominal pain. Specific acupoints like Burong ST-19 and Chengman ST-20 are targeted to harmonize the Middle Burner and subdue rebellious Qi. Points along the Stomach, Pericardium, Bladder, Spleen, and Directing Vessel, such as Neiguan P-6 and Zhongwan REN-12, are selected based on their ability to regulate Qi, invigorate Blood, clear Heat, and resolve Dampness, providing a holistic approach to alleviating pain and restoring balance within the body's energy system.

Explore below some acupoints used to address upper abdominal pain, organized by meridian.

  • By Meridian
  • Stomach Channel
  • Pericardium Channel
  • Bladder Channel
  • Spleen Channel
  • Directing Vessel
  • Large Intestine Channel
  • Liver Channel
  • Gall Bladder Channel
  • Extra Points: Back (EX-B)
  • Kidney Channel
Burong ST-19

Burong ST-19

2 cun below the sternocostal angel and 6 cun above the umbilicus, 2 cun lateral to the anterior midline.

Chengman ST-20

Chengman ST-20

5 cun above the umbilicus and 2 cun lateral to the anterior midline, or 1 cun below Burong ST-19.

Liangmen ST-21

Liangmen ST-21

4 cun above the umbilicus and 2 cun lateral to the anterior midline.

Guanmen ST-22

Guanmen ST-22

3 cun above the umbilicus and 2 cun lateral to the anterior midline.

Taiyi ST-23

Taiyi ST-23

2 cun above the umbilicus, 2 cun lateral to the anterior midline.

Huaroumen ST-24

Huaroumen ST-24

1 cun above the umbilicus and 2 cun lateral to the anterior midline.

Liangqiu ST-34

Liangqiu ST-34

2 cun above the upper-lateral border of the patella, on a line between the upper lateral patellar border and the anterior superior iliac spine (ASIS).

Zusanli ST-36

Zusanli ST-36

3 cun below Dubi ST-35, one finger breadth lateral to the anterior crest of the tibia, on the tibialis anterior muscle.

Jiexi ST-41

Jiexi ST-41

At the junction of the dorsum of the foot and leg, between the tendons of extensor digitorum and the extensor hallucis longus muscle. Approximately at the level of the tip of the external malleolus.

Chongyang ST-42

Chongyang ST-42

Distal to Jiexi ST-41, at the highest point of the dorsum of foot, between the tendons of the extensor hallucis longus and the extensor digitorum longus, directly lateral to the point where the dorsalis pedis artery may be palpated. The point is bordered proximally by the 2nd and 3rd metatarsal bones and distally by the 2nd and 3rd cuneiform bones.

Quze P-3

Quze P-3

On the transverse cubital crease, at the ulnar side of the tendon of biceps brachii muscle.

Jianshi P-5

Jianshi P-5

3 cun above the transverse crease of the wrist, between the tendons of palmaris longus and flexor carpi radialis muscle.

Neiguan P-6

Neiguan P-6

2 cun above Daling P-7 on the transverse crease of the wrist, between the tendons of palmaris longus and flexor carpi radialis muscle.

Daling P-7

Daling P-7

In the depression in the middle of the transverse crease of the wrist, between the tendons of palmaris longus and flexor carpi radialis muscle.

Dushu BL-16

Dushu BL-16

1.5 cun lateral to the lower border of the spinous process of the 6th thoracic vertebra (T6).

Geshu BL-17

Geshu BL-17

1.5 cun lateral to the lower border of the spinous process of the 7th thoracic vertebra (T7).

Ganshu BL-18

Ganshu BL-18

1.5 cun lateral to the lower border of the spinous process of the 9th thoracic vertebra (T9).

Weishu BL-21

Weishu BL-21

1.5 cun lateral to the lower border of the spinous process of the 12th thoracic vertebra (T12).

Dadu SP-2

Dadu SP-2

On the medial aspect of the big toe, at the junction of the shaft and the base of the proximal phalanx, distal to the 1st metatarsophalangeal joint.

Taibai SP-3

Taibai SP-3

Proximal and inferior to the head of the 1st metatarsal bone, at the border of the red and white skin.

Gongsun SP-4

Gongsun SP-4

In the depression distal and inferior to the base of the 1st metatarsal bone, at the border of the red and white skin.

Xiawan REN-10

Xiawan REN-10

On the midline of the abdomen, 2 cun above the umbilicus and 6 cun below the sternocostal angle.

Zhongwan REN-12

Zhongwan REN-12

On the midline of the abdomen, 4 cun above the umbilicus and 4 cun below the sternocostal angle.

Hegu LI-4

Hegu LI-4

Between the 1st and 2nd metacarpal bones, approximately in the middle of the 2nd metacarpal bone on the radial side.

Qimen LIV-14

Qimen LIV-14

On the mammillary line, two ribs below the nipple, in the 6th intercostal space, 4 cun lateral to the midline. Please note that there is an alternative location for LIV-14 at the lower edge of the ribcage in line with the nipple or, in women, 4 cun from the midline. In fact, one could look upon these as two separate points. The one in the intercostal space is used more for Channel problems. While the one at the lower edge of the ribcage is used more for Organ problems.

Riyue GB-24

Riyue GB-24

On the mamillary line which is 4 cun lateral to the anterior midline, in the 7th intercostal space, 1 intercostal space below Qimen LIV-14.

Weiwanxiashu EX-B-3

Weiwanxiashu EX-B-3

1.5 cun lateral to the lower border of the spinous process of the 8th thoracic vertebra (T8).

Yindu KID-19

Yindu KID-19

4 cun above the umbilicus, 0.5 cun lateral to the anterior midline.