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Pulse Diagnosis

The art of reading the pulses is the central diagnostic technique of Traditional Chinese Medicine and in many ways shapes the whole character of Oriental Medicine practice. Pulse Diagnosis is not easy to perfect, but the student is highly encouraged to make a start; it is easy learn fundamental aspects of Pulse Diagnosis which will give you significant clinical information. This brief article highlights the essentials of Pulse Diagnosis, plenty enough to get a curious person started. Even if you spend a year, without further guidance or study, just checking the pulses of everyone you can, your observation and instincts will lead you to discern a variety of patterns.

Before we discuss the details, we must address the question of how Pulse Diagnosis works. The answer is that the human body is resonant and holographic; resonant because it vibrates, it pulses, it has a rhythm, a set of frequencies which can be felt and listened to; holographic because the each part of the body reflects the whole. Just as a good mechanic can listen to a car engine and pick up disharmonies and wobbles and determine what is wrong with the engine, so too can a physician pick up disharmonies by "listening" to the feel of the pulse.

It is less easy to explain how it is that particular positions on the radial artery are specifically related to the individual organ systems of Chinese Medicine, particularly when classical Indian or Aryuvedic Medicine assigns different correspondences to the arteries and yet is still able to elicit consistent and relevant information. My feeling is that the holographic nature of our human existence is itself the reflection of a supremely intelligent, holographic universe. It seems that everywhere we look, every way we examine the systems of our world, we are able to discern patterns and intelligible information.

In order to work out the intricacies of the system of Pulse Diagnosis, someone, somewhere back in the past, was either divinely inspired or relentlessly curious and thoughtful. The result is a profoundly useful way to determine your treatment strategies and it doesn't cost a thousand dollars a time like some of our western medical diagnostic tests.

One finally point: imagine that reading the pulses is like looking through a little peep hole onto a vast landscape; what you see may be true but it will never be the total picture. So even though Pulse Diagnosis is regarded as the pre-eminent method for determining patterns of disharmony, it is always done in the context of the full range of classical diagnostic methods.

Correspondences of the Pulse Positions

The pulses are taken by using the index, middle and ring fingers aligned along the radial artery from the crease of the wrist. Your index finger is placed at the crease of the wrist, with the middle and index fingers adjacent. These three positions, over two hands, correspond to the six pairs of Zang Fu, with the superficial level of the pulse corresponding to the Fu organs and the deep level of the pulse corresponding to the Zang organs.


Left Wrist Right Wrist
Superficial Level Deep Level Deep Level Superficial Level
Small Intestine Heart Lung Large Intestine
Gall Bladder Liver Spleen Stomach
Bladder Kidney
(Kidney Yin)
(Kidney Yang)
Triple Burner