Pulse diagnosis has been made into an art form by the Chinese, whereas few Western-trained doctors know how to evaluate your pulse, except by counting it.
Learning to recognise the different qualities takes effort and experience, but for acupuncturists it’s worth it!
What does Pulse Diagnosis mean? The doctor or nurse who takes your pulse the usual way just counts your radial pulse rate.
The ‘Normal’ rate is 72 per minute. Often they don’t wait a minute while doing it: they count it for 15 seconds, and multiply by 4 to get the rate for a whole minute.
Someone trained in Chinese Pulse Diagnosis would probably take much longer than 15 seconds.
Why? Surely a pulse-rate is a pulse-rate?
Here you’ve exposed a weakness in Western medicine, which has trapped itself into judging things purely on the results of data measured by scientific instruments.
Although we need those careful instrumental tests, they tend to ignore the wealth of information that is qualitative rather than quantitative. This qualitative information comes via our senses: via our senses of touch, smell, sight, hearing, sensation.
The relevance of that measurable data is decided by comparing it with statistics obtained from many such measurements.
This is a sensible way of working but it’s different to the objective way of Chinese medicine, which is more interactive.
Twelve (12) pulses, not one!
Well: not actually 12 different pulses, but 12 positions to take the same pulse, six at each wrist.
Start by taking your friend’s left hand in your left hand. Now place the middle finger of your right hand over the normal radial pulse position where a doctor would feel for it.
Then place the index finger of your right hand on the skin just distal (ie further down the wrist towards the wrist) to your middle finger, and your ring finger just proximal (ie just closer to your friend’s elbow) to your middle finger. Both index and ring finger will be almost adjacent to your middle finger.
Now, if you feel very carefully and if your friend has a reasonably noticeable pulse, you’ll be able to feel the pulse under each of the three fingers, though you may need to feel around a bit for it.
That’s not all. There are two different depths at which you can feel the pulse, deep and shallow.
Actually there are three depths at which many acupuncturists take the pulse, and some take it at additional positions by rolling the finger over and back and side to side of the basic position.
You may or may not be able to detect the pulse at these different depths in all three positions. If you can, see if you can feel a difference in the pulse quality at each position
With pulse diagnosis each pulse relates to a different body Organ
For example, you have a different pulse position for each of your body Organs eg Stomach, Heart, Liver, Kidney etc. and two which don’t have an official physical organ.
Pulse Qualities in Pulse Diagnosis
There are about 30 different qualities that acupuncturists aspire to learn to recognise. They include fast and slow, thin, wiry, deep, hidden, and so on, each name describing a syndrome in Chinese medicine. You can have different pulse qualities in different positions.
As there are twelve positions for the pulse (6 at each wrist) you’d think it possible to have 12 different pulse qualities at the same time.
Fortunately there are seldom more than 3 or 4 pulse qualities present so several pulse positions share the same quality.
Your acupuncturist may, depending on his/her training, also assess the strength of the pulses in relation to one another.
So what if your ‘Wood’ pulses were deficiency and your ‘Water’ pulses were strong? He might consider drawing on the body’s energy represented by the strong Water pulses to supplement the Wood energy.