From a Chinese medical perspective, the Liver is in charge of distributing Qi to the body in a consistent and even manner. When the Liver is functioning properly, Qi gets to all the organs and tissues that need it. There is no pain throughout the body, the digestion works harmoniously, sleep is deep and restful. “Free and Easy Wanderer” is the name given to an important Chinese herbal formula that keeps the Liver Qi moving freely. I imagine the well-functioning Liver as a happy old hippy wandering around shaking hands, high-fiving people and giving pep talks. Everyone’s getting the Qi they need and everyone’s happy.
When the Qi isn’t moving freely big problems result: neck and shoulder tension, a predisposition to anger, pain in the body, PMS, alternating constipation and diarrhea, to name a few. Here, I am reminded an officemate I used to work with years ago. Red face, red eyes, shouting voice, angry, he was plagued by digestive issues and high blood pressure. He always looked ready to explode at any moment. He would ignore those of us around him for hours and then burst in and yell “Where are those reports? Why haven’t gotten back to me about what the customer said?!” This is the perfect example of what the Liver does when it is not in balance: too little followed by too much. In the case of GI problems, first the Liver fails to provide Qi to the organs of digestion (the Spleen and Stomach). A lack of Qi can cause gas, bloating, a feeling like food is just sitting in the Stomach, and dull pain. When the Liver sends too much Qi to the Spleen and Stomach this results in cramping and diarrhea.
When the Qi doesn’t move freely in the muscles and the joints? You guessed it: Pain. Qi stagnation can be caused by traumatic injury, overuse, or lack of exercise. Zhong Zhang Jing is one of the fathers of Chinese medicine and made famous this quote: “Where there is free flow, there is no pain. Where there is pain, there is no free flow.” Over time, the stagnation of Qi leads to the blood in the area becoming stagnant, too. This leads to chronic pain and pain of a more intense and stabbing nature.
Another function of the Liver is that it “controls the sinews”. Sinews (tendons and ligaments) that do not receive enough Qi, Blood and nourishment from the Liver become dry, brittle, and prone to injury. Inflexible muscles, cramps, and spasms are symptoms of tissues that aren’t being nourished by the Liver.
One of the great things about acupuncture is that we are by definition moving your Qi. The very act of putting a needle into the human body begins the process of moving Qi. This is one reason why most of us find acupuncture so relaxing: our Liver Qi gets to flow free and easy again.
headaches, fatigue, cold and flu, digestive issues, PMS, and many other health concerns.