Breaking down a common pathology and get it in balance this spring
By Holly Pelletier, L.Ac.
If you are alive today, chances are you have some form of one of the most common Chinese medical diagnoses, Liver Qi stagnation. Let me break down this complex, and presumably new, terminology.
Liver (LV)—In Chinese medicine, all of the meridian systems are named after organs in the body. When we talk about Liver, Spleen or the Heart, for example, and you see it with a capital letter, the scope of the word’s meaning is much larger. When you see Liver in this post, know that it means the energetics of the organ as well as the organ itself. This includes the meridian system, the emotional connection and the actual physical lines in the body the meridian comprises—in this case, the inner leg line or your adductor muscles.
Qi—Qi = Energy (roughly). Everything is Qi, just like everything is energy—physics taught us this, and, well, there is no arguing with physics!
Stagnation—This one is simple. Stagnation simply means the stuck-ness of something/that something is not moving.
Pathology—A pathology is an imbalance in your system. Altogether, Liver Qi stagnation pathology is an imbalance caused by something not moving along your Liver meridian.
Now that you know the breakdown of the pathology, how do you know if you have Liver Qi stagnation? Let’s look at some common signs that might signal you have some (or a lot) of this imbalance.
Irritability, depression, displaced anger, tight muscles, pain anywhere in the body, restlessness, PMS, headaches, irregular and/or painful periods, constipation, inappropriate anger, frustration, abdominal pain/discomfort, mood swings, sighing, sensation of a lump in the throat, excessive sleep or hiccups. 99% of individuals have at least one of these common imbalances on a regular basis.
What causes LV Qi stagnation?
Stress and lack of movement are two BIG players, and the Liver organ system is actually most susceptible to imbalance in the Springtime. During spring, the above-mentioned symptoms can flare more easily. To take care of this organ system, now is the time to pay more attention to it, before we are fully into the spring season.
Why is it important to pay attention to this?
Understanding how your body works and how the seasons affect us is the first step in your own personal health journey. This is one of the foundational principles of Chinese medicine as a preventative means to wellness.
When the Liver is in balance, it is a strong force to be reckoned with. You’re more likely to experience a lot of forward progress, determination and healthy amounts of focus and clarity in completing a particular “job” (think of a job as dreams, hopes, desires).
Unfortunately, many people have the mindset of, “If I’m not sick, I’m healthy.” The problem with that is we are not trained to see symptoms of early illness or disease. For the most part, we do not know how to correct imbalances early on or properly deal with emotions—i.e. not pushing them down or not taking them out on those who do not deserve it. We don’t know how to tap into the energy of the body and world around us to create an environment and a lifestyle conducive to optimal health. We will have pain and brush it off, or a nagging headache and say that’s normal, when in reality these are symptoms our body is trying to tell us about an imbalance! We need to learn to listen and to tap in EARLY if we want to live a healthy, disease-free life.
What’s more is that a MAJOR cause of disease is stagnation. There is usually some form of stagnation in every illness or ailment, and the Liver is the organ system in charge of clearing, moving and breaking up stagnation.
3 Easy Tips to Balance your Liver Qi this Spring!
The best way to take care of your Liver and harness the energy of this organ system is to move your body. There is so much flexibility with this—whatever you like to do to get moving is A-OK. Try walking, biking, yoga or dancing! Anything goes…just get going TODAY!
If movement and exercise is totally out of your lifestyle at the moment, start with small tricks like taking the stairs or parking further away so you have a longer walk through the parking lot!
2. Let emotion out in a healthy way!
When I first did therapy, my therapist introduced me to a “rage room.” It took me about three years to actually use it, but when I did, I felt amazing! My rage room back then consisted of a punching bag that we hit with a bat, but there are so many ways to release pent up emotions so they don’t stagnate and lead to disease.
Some easy and accessible examples are:
- Scream while alone—in the car, woods or at your house when no one else is around. Note: If you are thinking about this in terms of your child, which undoubtedly many of you are, it is good to encourage them to let out emotion. Help them find a safe space they can do it in.
- Jump up and down, shaking out your limbs (really effective)
- Run or jog
- Practice Vinyasa Yoga
- Write a “rage page” in your journal where you get all of your feelings out (Note: the secret to this is that you must throw the page away after and never look back at it again. We are letting things out, NOT trying to dwell on them more).
- Take an exercise class, like kickboxing
3. Get acupuncture, or at least acupressure!
Schedule an acupuncture session with a licensed practitioner—stick to an acupuncturist and not someone who just does “dry needling,” which doesn’t offer the benefits of a well-rounded treatment that addresses your root pathology, whether that be Liver Qi stagnation or something else.
If that is not in the cards for you, start tuning in to your own body. Begin with self-massage—the feet and hands are good places to begin—between the webbing of the fingers and the toes, in particular, and assess for stagnation. How can you tell if there is stagnation? If there is pain, sensitivity, built-up heat or cold, or numbness/tingling.
As you start to become intuitive with your own body, remember: Pain = Stagnation = Energy not flowing = built-up accumulation = disease at some point in the future. Start to get friendly with your own energy and begin to understand your body more!
About the Author:
Holly Pelletier, licensed acupuncturist, has been working with children, adolescents and young adults, in many different capacities since 2004. Prior to treating youth with acupuncture, she worked as a teacher, coach and mentor. She especially enjoys working with young people and acupuncture because of their speedy response time and genuine excitement about this form of medicine. For more information about acupuncture at NESCA and our new ‘Acupuncture & Mindfulness’ program for teens, please email Holly Pelletier at email@example.com. For more blog posts by Holly check out her personal blog: www.holisticallyinspired.org.
Neuropsychology & Education Services for Children & Adolescents (NESCA) is a pediatric neuropsychology practice and integrative treatment center with offices in Newton and Plainville, Massachusetts, and Londonderry, New Hampshire, serving clients from preschool through young adulthood and their families. For more information, please email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 617-658-9800.