Flank pain according to Chinese Medicine

Home > Symptoms list > Flank pain

Flank pain 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 flank pain 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 flank pain is often associated with stifling sensation in the chest causing one to have deep sighs, suppressed emotions and feelings of frustration in the pattern “Liver Qi Stagnation”.

Once identified, patterns are treated using medicinal herbs, acupuncture, and other therapies. In the case of flank pain we’ve identified two 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 flank pain.

Liver Qi Stagnation, a "pattern of disharmony" that can cause flank pain

In Chinese Medicine flank pain is a symptom for the pattern "Liver Qi Stagnation". Below is a small explanation for it with links for more details.

The Liver is a so-called "Zang" Organ. Learn more about the Liver in Chinese Medicine

Liver Qi Stagnation

Pulse type(s): Wiry (Xian)

Tongue color: Normal (light red)

When Liver Qi does not flow smoothly or regularly, it becomes Stagnant and in Excess. This leads to Heat accumulating in the Liver. The feeling of ‘Distension’ (zhang 胀) is the main symptom of Liver Qi Stagnation.

In addition to flank pain, other symptoms associated with Liver Qi Stagnation include stifling sensation in the chest causing one to have deep sighs, suppressed emotions and feelings of frustration.

From a Western Medicine standpoint Liver Qi Stagnation is associated with health issues such as Low Breast Milk Supply, Mastitis or Breast Engorgement.

Liver Qi 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 Liver Qi Stagnation here

Two herbal formulas that might help with flank pain

Jia Wei Xiao Yao San

Source date: Ming dynasty

Number of ingredients: 10 herbs

Key actions: Clears Liver and Spleen Qi Stagnation. Tonifies Spleen. Clears Deficient Heat. Nourishes the blood.

Why might Jia Wei Xiao Yao San help with flank pain?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Liver Qi Stagnation' of which flank pain is a symptom.

Other symptoms characteristic of Liver Qi Stagnation include stifling sensation in the chest causing one to have deep sighs, suppressed emotions and feelings of frustration.

Read more about Jia Wei Xiao Yao San here

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 flank pain?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Liver Qi Stagnation' of which flank pain is a symptom.

Other symptoms characteristic of Liver Qi Stagnation include stifling sensation in the chest causing one to have deep sighs, suppressed emotions and feelings of frustration.

Read more about Xiao Yao San here

The five Chinese Medicinal herbs most likely to help treat flank pain

Why might White Peony Root (Bai Shao) help with flank pain?

Because White Peony Root is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat flank pain as a symptom, like Jia Wei Xiao Yao San or Xiao Yao San 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 Atractylodes Rhizome (Bai Zhu) help with flank pain?

Because Atractylodes Rhizome is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat flank pain as a symptom, like Yue Ju Wan or Xiao Yao San for instance.

Atractylodes Rhizomes is a Warm herb that tastes Bitter and Sweet. It targets the Spleen and the Stomach.

Its main actions are: Tonifies the Spleen Qi. Fortifies the Spleen Yang and dispels Damp through urination. Tonifies Qi and stops sweating. Calms restless fetus when due to Deficiency of Spleen Qi.

Read more about Atractylodes Rhizomes here

Why might Szechuan Lovage Root (Chuan Xiong) help with flank pain?

Because Szechuan Lovage Root is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat flank pain as a symptom, like Yue Ju Wan or Chai Hu Shu Gan San for instance.

Szechuan Lovage Roots is a Warm herb that tastes Pungent. It targets the Gallbladder, the Liver and the Pericardium.

Its main actions are: Regulates and moves the Blood. Relieves Wind-Cold and pain. Circulates the Qi in the Upper Burner, relieving headaches.

Read more about Szechuan Lovage Roots here

Why might Cape Jasmine Fruit (Zhi Zi) help with flank pain?

Because Cape Jasmine Fruit is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat flank pain as a symptom, like Yue Ju Wan or Jia Wei Xiao Yao San for instance.

Cape Jasmine Fruits is a Cold herb that tastes Bitter. It targets the Gallbladder, the Heart, the Lung and the Sanjiao.

Its main actions are: Clears Heat and calms spirit. Drains Damp-Heat affecting the Liver and Gallbladder. Clears Heat in the Blood and stops bleeding. Anti-inflammatory.

Read more about Cape Jasmine Fruits here

Why might Dong Quai (Dang Gui) help with flank pain?

Because Dong Quai is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat flank pain as a symptom, like Xiao Yao San or Jia Wei Xiao Yao San 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