3 common types of pain in TCM and what they mean 常见的三种疼痛性质

Updated: Jan 25

Abdominal Pain 腹痛

When you present with symptoms of pain in any parts of your body to your TCM physician, he/she may often ask you to describe the pain, to which many of us may answer “it’s just… painful…”.

In TCM, knowing the type of pain can help to diagnose the condition more accurately. Here are 3 of the most common types of pain one may encounter:

1. Burning Pain (灼痛)

Burning pain refers to pain accompanied by a burning sensation or a feeling of heat in the area. Common examples are burning pain in the stomach due to excess stomach acid, or sore throat accompanied with a hot feeling in the throat. TCM usually attributes such pain to “heat”.

If this is a case of “excess heat” (known as实热), TCM practitioners may prescribe cooling herbs that extinguish the fire.

If this is a case of deficiency in Yin (阴虚) causing the heat (thus known as虚热), herbs that replenish the Yin may be prescribed. (Think of it as: a forest that is dry is more susceptible to burning, and adding water (Yin) to the forest will help to cool it down)

2. Cold Pain (冷痛)

Cold pain refers to pain accompanied by feeling of coldness. Such pain often occur due to an encounter with something cold, e.g. cold pain in the stomach after eating too much ice cream, or joint pain in cold weather.

In such cases, warming herbs will be needed to expel the cold, or to replenish Yang energy. In the case of cold pain in the stomach, ginger (either fresh or dried) is often a common herb used to expel the cold, and to warm the stomach and spleen. In the absence of other herbs, boiling ginger slices to make ginger tea or using instant ginger tea powder is a good and easy home remedy.

> Related article: Avoid cold drinks to prevent future health complications

3. Bloating pain (胀痛)

Bloating pain refers to pain accompanied with a bloating/swelling sensation, such as tummy ache with bloatedness after a meal. TCM usually attributes such pain to stagnation of Qi (气滞). Treatment thus involves herbs that can move the Qi (行气) and clear the stagnation. In the case of tummy ache with bloatedness, herbs such as mandarin orange peel are often used to influence the Qi movement of the spleen so as to regulate digestion.


一, 灼痛