Abdominal tightness according to Chinese Medicine

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Abdominal tightness can be the consequence of several so-called “patterns of disharmony” in Chinese Medicine.

Chinese Medicine sees the body as a system, not a sum of isolated parts. A "pattern" is when the system's harmony is disrupted, leading to symptoms or signs that something is wrong (like abdominal tightness here). It is similar to the concept of disease in Western Medicine but not quite: a Western disease can often be explained by several Chinese patterns and vice-versa.

A pattern often manifests itself in a combination of symptoms that, at first glance, do not seem necessarily related to each others. For instance here abdominal tightness is often associated with scanty periods, lower abdominal pain and dizziness in the pattern “Qi and Blood Stagnation”. As you will see below, we have in record three patterns that can cause abdominal tightness.

Once identified, patterns are treated using medicinal herbs, acupuncture, and other therapies. In the case of abdominal tightness we’ve identified four herbal formulas that may help treat patterns behind the symptom.

We’ve also selected below the five medicinal herbs that we think are most likely to help treat abdominal tightness.

The three "patterns of disharmony" that can cause abdominal tightness

In Chinese Medicine abdominal tightness is a symptom for 3 patterns that we have on record. Below is a small explanation for each of them with links for more details.

Bupleurum Roots (Chai Hu) is the king ingredient for Xiao Yao San, a formula used for Qi and Blood Stagnation

Qi and Blood Stagnation

Pulse type(s): Choppy (Se), Wiry (Xian)

Tongue color: Normal (light red), Red, Red sides

In addition to abdominal tightness, other symptoms associated with Qi and Blood Stagnation include scanty periods, lower abdominal pain and dizziness.

From a Western Medicine standpoint Qi and Blood Stagnation is associated with health issues such as Menstrual Cramps, Absence Of Menstruation or Menopausal Syndrome.

Qi and Blood Stagnation is often treated with Xiao Yao San, a herbal formula made of 6 herbs (including Bupleurum Roots - Chai Hu - as a key herb). Xiao Yao San belongs to the category of "formulas that harmonize liver-spleen", which might be why it is often recommended for this pattern. Its main action as a formula is: "Harmonizes the function of Liver and Spleen".

Read more about Qi and Blood Stagnation here

Phellodendron Bark (Huang Bo) is the king ingredient for Er Miao San, a formula used for Damp-Heat

Damp-Heat

Pulse type(s): Rapid (Shu), Slippery (Hua)

Tongue coating: Sticky coating, Yellow coating

Tongue color: Red

In addition to abdominal tightness, other symptoms associated with Damp-Heat include lower abdominal pain, dizziness and restlessness.

From a Western Medicine standpoint Damp-Heat is associated with health issues such as Menstrual Cramps, Intermenstrual Bleeding or Abnormal Vaginal Discharge.

Damp-Heat is often treated with Er Miao San, a herbal formula made of 2 herbs (including Phellodendron Bark - Huang Bo - as a key herb). Er Miao San belongs to the category of "formulas that expel dampness", which might be why it is often recommended for this pattern. Its main action as a formula is: "Expels Dampness from the Lower Burner".

Read more about Damp-Heat here

Rhubarb (Da Huang) is the king ingredient for Da Huang Mu Dan Pi Tang, a formula used for Blood Stagnation with Heat

Blood Stagnation with Heat

Pulse type(s): Rapid (Shu), Slippery (Hua)

Tongue coating: Yellow coating

Tongue color: Pale

In addition to abdominal tightness, other symptoms associated with Blood Stagnation with Heat include pain in the groin and alternating fever and chills.

Blood Stagnation with Heat is often treated with Da Huang Mu Dan Pi Tang, a herbal formula made of 5 herbs (including Rhubarb - Da Huang - as a key herb). Da Huang Mu Dan Pi Tang belongs to the category of "formulas that clear internal abscesses and sores", which might be why it is often recommended for this pattern. Its main action as a formula is: "Clears Stagnant Heat in the intestines".

Read more about Blood Stagnation with Heat here

Four herbal formulas that might help with abdominal tightness

Xiao Yao San

Source date: 1107 AD

Number of ingredients: 6 herbs

Key actions: Harmonizes the function of Liver and Spleen. Relieves Liver Qi stagnation. Nourishes the Blood.

Why might Xiao Yao San help with abdominal tightness?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Qi and Blood Stagnation' of which abdominal tightness is a symptom.

According to Chinese Medicine, Qi and Blood Stagnation can contribute to many health issues, including Menstrual Cramps.

Read more about Xiao Yao San here

Qing Re Tiao Xue Tang

Source date: 1576 AD

Number of ingredients: 10 herbs

Key actions: Expel Dampness. Relieve pain. Move Qi and Blood.

Why might Qing Re Tiao Xue Tang help with abdominal tightness?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Damp-Heat' of which abdominal tightness is a symptom.

According to Chinese Medicine, Damp-Heat can contribute to many health issues, including Menstrual Cramps.

Read more about Qing Re Tiao Xue Tang here

Da Huang Mu Dan Pi Tang

Source date: 220 AD

Number of ingredients: 5 herbs

Key actions: Clears Stagnant Heat in the intestines. Reduces swelling and disperses lumps.

Why might Da Huang Mu Dan Pi Tang help with abdominal tightness?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Blood Stagnation with Heat' of which abdominal tightness is a symptom.

Other symptoms characteristic of Blood Stagnation With Heat include pain in the groin and alternating fever and chills.

Read more about Da Huang Mu Dan Pi Tang here

Er Miao San

Source date: 1481 AD

Number of ingredients: 2 herbs

Key actions: Expels Dampness from the Lower Burner. Drains Heat from the Lower Burner.

Why might Er Miao San help with abdominal tightness?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Damp-Heat' of which abdominal tightness is a symptom.

According to Chinese Medicine, Damp-Heat can contribute to many health issues, including Menstrual Cramps.

Read more about Er Miao San here

The five Chinese Medicinal herbs most likely to help treat abdominal tightness

Why might Dong Quai (Dang Gui) help with abdominal tightness?

Because Dong Quai is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat abdominal tightness as a symptom, like Xiao Yao San or Qing Re Tiao Xue Tang for instance.

Dong Quai is a Warm herb that tastes Pungent and Sweet. It targets the Spleen, the Heart and the Liver.

Its main actions are: Tonifies the Blood. Lubricates the Intestines. Relieve constipation. Promotes circulation and dispels Bi Pain. Reduce Dysmenorrhea and help with irregular menstruation.

Read more about Dong Quai here

Why might White Peony Root (Bai Shao) help with abdominal tightness?

Because White Peony Root is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat abdominal tightness as a symptom, like Xiao Yao San or Qing Re Tiao Xue Tang for instance.

White Peony Roots is a Neutral herb that tastes Bitter and Sour. It targets the Spleen and the Liver.

Its main actions are: Tonifies the Blood and preserves the Yin. Nourishes the Liver and assists in the smooth flow of Qi. Regulates the meridians and eases the pain.

Read more about White Peony Roots here

Why might Bupleurum Root (Chai Hu) help with abdominal tightness?

Because it is a key herb in Xiao Yao San, a herbal formula indicated to treat the pattern '' (a pattern with abdominal tightness as a symptom)

Bupleurum Roots is a Cool herb that tastes Bitter. It targets the Gallbladder and the Liver.

Its main actions are: Harmonizes exterior and interior. Smoothes the Liver and upraises the Yang.

Read more about Bupleurum Roots here

Why might Phellodendron Bark (Huang Bo) help with abdominal tightness?

Because it is a key herb in Er Miao San, a herbal formula indicated to treat the pattern '' (a pattern with abdominal tightness as a symptom)

Phellodendron Bark is a Cold herb that tastes Bitter. It targets the Bladder, the Kidney and the Large intestine.

Its main actions are: Expels Damp-Heat in the Lower Burner. Clears Kidney Yin Deficient Heat. Applied externally or toxic Fire, especially associated with Dampness.

Read more about Phellodendron Bark here

Why might Rhubarb (Da Huang) help with abdominal tightness?

Because it is a key herb in Da Huang Mu Dan Pi Tang, a herbal formula indicated to treat the pattern 'Blood Stagnation with Heat' (a pattern with abdominal tightness as a symptom)

Rhubarb is a Cold herb that tastes Bitter. It targets the Spleen, the Stomach, the Large intestine, the Liver and the Pericardium.

Its main actions are: Drains Excess Heat and eliminates Dampness, especially when in the Sunlight Yang stage. Cools the Blood and stops bleeding. Invigorates Blood, breaks up Stasis and relieves pain. Clears Heat and toxins from Excess. Applied topically for Hot sores and Blood Stasis.

Read more about Rhubarb here

Conditions associated with abdominal tightness

Menstrual cramps