To those of you who have been to see a Chinese Medicine Practitioner, you would have experienced a pulse diagnosis. Though most practitioners may count beats per minute, there is actually an entire system of diagnosis occurring right at the point of your wrist.
Pulse diagnosis is one of the main techniques a TCM practitioner employs to gain an overall picture of your health. Though the beats per minute can be quite important, what the practitioner is actually feeling for is over twenty different pulse qualities. These qualities can help to put the finishing touches to a diagnosis or it can be the centrepiece of an entire consultation. As this blog is written to be succinct and provide bite sized pieces of knowledge to you, we will not go into each of the pulse qualities here.
So what is happening when a practitioner takes your pulse?
To begin with, the practitioner is feeling at three points on your wrist (upper, middle and lower). From here they will place three levels of pressure as there are three levels to the pulse (heaven, man, earth). Each position represents a different organ and the practitioner is actually feeling the state of your inner health through the pulse.
On the right hand side we have the Lung (upper), Spleen (middle), Kidney (lower). On the left hand side it is the Heart (upper), Liver (middle), Kidney (lower). A few questions will spring to mind for those with any anatomy training so I will address them here:
1) We have two kidneys thus left and right; each represents a different energetic quality in the body.
2) The liver is physically located on the right side of the body but is felt in the left pulse in the classics. A possible theory is because our neurological pathways located along the spine cross at one point which means right pathway is read on the left side of the brain and vice versa.
It should also be pointed out that there are different schools of Chinese Medicine and some employ different styles of pulse diagnosis. For example, one school feels the kidney on one side only and replaces the opposite side with the pericardium.
Though it is a system that every TCM practitioner learns, some spend a lifetime reaching special levels of mastery. There are a few seasoned practitioners that are able to tell every injury you have ever suffered throughout your lifetime just by taking the pulse. These masters are often quite rare and thankfully it is not a necessity to have developed such a high level of tactile palpation in order to gain a proper diagnosis.
In summary, a TCM Practitioner will take your pulse on both wrists as the pulse is a reflection of the state of your inner organs. Each position represents a different organ and there are three levels that need to be felt. This is of course a very basic introduction to pulse diagnosis and if you would like more in-depth information, ask your TCM practitioner during your next consultation.