The Science of Pulse Reading in TCM

In Chinese medicine pulse taking has been used as one of the most important diagnostic tools for over 2000 years and is considered one of the most valuable of all the devices to which a physician can resort. It provides a clear window into the pulsating waves of the body as the health of the organs can be felt in the different pulses.

The TCM physician uses three fingers to take the patient’s pulse at three positions on each wrist simultaneously, and will judge the pulse. There are 26 basic pulse types, each type of pulse signifies certain health conditions.

The physician will first use only light pressure against the patient’s wrist, then increase it. The light pressure allows the physician to check one specific organ, the increased pressure another one. Every organ’s status can be monitored by the quality of the pulse. The physician can, among other things, feel if the organ lacks energy, or the energy has stagnated, if there is a lack of ‘blood’, or if a pathogenic factor has invaded the organ. TCM focuses on root causes of ailments and treating the body before it becomes ill. Pulse reading allows the physician to identify specific organs or body systems that may not be functioning so well and would require attention or nourishment.

The physician has to take into account various other factors together with pulse reading before arriving at an accurate diagnosis. For example, the age, gender, profession of a patient would influence the pulse. A highly experienced physician looks at the overall picture to derive the condition of the patient.