A brief introduction of pulse diagnosis in Chinese medicine

Updated: Oct 25, 2019


Four thousands of years, the diagnosis of disease in Traditional Chinese Medicine has been like a test. The patient reaches out his/her hand in front of the doctor. The doctor feels both hands silently and then looks at the tongue of the patient. After asking the patient's symptoms and feelings carefully, the doctor will tell the patient about the context of his condition as clear as possible. If the patient is convinced, the test will be passed.

chinese medicine pulse reading

How do Chinese medicine doctors analysis the pulse?

In general, there are eight aspects of a pulse need to be judged.

The position of the pulse is perceived first. Some pulse can be touched at skin surface and other can be felt in very deep position. That differentiates float pulse and sink pulse. The float pulse indicates that the disease mainly affects superficial and upper part of the body and the sink pulse indicates that the disease is deeper and mainly in the lower part of the body.

The second aspect is the strength of the pulse. The forceful pulse belongs to a strong person and the weak pulse belongs to an infirm person.

The third point is the frequency of the pulse. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, the heart beat of a healthy person should be 4 times in a cycle of breath. The retarded pulse is less than 4 times and the rapid pulse is more than 5 times. These two opposing pulse patterns usually indicate whether the body conditions are caused by cold or heat.

The fourth point is the tension of the pulse. The feeling of a string pulse is tight and hard and usually presentates the abnormalities of the hepatobiliary system and emotional problems. Opposite to string pulse, soft and gentle pulse normally means a healthy body.

The fifth aspect of pulse diagnosis is the rhythm of the pulse. Sometimes the pulse is intermittent, tiny or scattered, and the strength and size of the pulse are not consistent. These all show the obstruction and hypofuction of circulatory system.

The sixth point is the fluency of the pulse. That is how smooth the movement of the blood flow is. In this aspect, slippery pulse and unsmooth pulse need to be distinguished. Slippery pulse is more common in people with strong and obese bodies, as well as in pregnant women. While unsmooth pulse usually indicates that the blood and fluid of the body is deficit.

The seventh point is the length of the pulse. The length of the axial range that fingers can feel divide the pulse into long pulse and short pulse, which state the energy (Qi) level of human body.

The last aspect is the width of the pulse. The radial range of the pulse divides the pulse into large pulse and thin pulse. The large pulse belongs to the summer season and big body form. The situation might be severe if a thin person has a large pulse in winter time.

50 Beats of pulse

That is, when a traditional Chinese doctor feels the pulse, the count of the pulse beats should not less than 50. And it should be no less than 1 minute for each and and about 3 minutes for both hands. If the time of pulse feeling is too short, it is difficult for the doctor to distinguish the shape, location, nature and rhythm of the pulse. If the time is too long, the pulse may be distorted because of the long time pressure on the artery.

As the pulse is a very sensitive physiological and pathological information, it can be affected by factors such as diet, exercise and emotion. Because the internal and external environment of the body is relatively stable before getting up and eating in the morning, the pulse condition can reflect the basic physiological situation of the body and it is easier for the doctor to find out the pathological pulse at that time.

Although the ideal time for pulse diagnosis is the early morning, it is a hard requirement for most of patients. So in order to reduce the interference of various factors, patient should be allowed to rest for a moment in quiet place and should permit a interval of more than half hour between diet and treatment.


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