One of the most common questions that people ask about acupuncture is: “Why does my acupuncturist check my pulse?”
Pulse and tongue diagnosis are two of the more important diagnostic tools in Chinese medicine. They are both used to derive a TCM diagnosis for your condition which is used to plan your treatment. Of the diagnostic tools, pulse diagnosis is one of the more important tools used in Chinese and Japanese acupuncture. While tongue diagnosis provides valuable clinical information, the pulse can be used to gain a deep understanding of the patient on many levels. “Mastering” pulse diagnosis is difficult without the guidance of a skilled teacher. Even at basic levels, however, the pulse provides immediate and specific information that can help clarify contradictory diagnostic information and symptomology.
According to the Chinese understanding, the pulse can reveal whether a syndrome is of hot or cold nature, whether it is of excess or deficiency type, and which organ systems suffer from dysfunction. In order to make these determinations, the practitioner must take the pulses before treatment and in order to see if the treatment is working, take them regularly throughout the treatment.
If a practitioner doesn’t look at your tongue or take your pulses then they are not practicing acupuncture, but they are practicing something called ‘dry needling’ – mainly used by physiotherapists and osteopaths. A fully trained acupuncturist who is using acupuncture traditionally will always take your pulses.