Acupuncture Pulse Diagnosis

by karen on September 23, 2013

by Chris Hammond M.Ac.,L.Ac.

You might be curious about what an acupuncturist does while taking your pulse.  There are pulse positions for each of the 12 meridians, found on the wrist.  We feel for the organ pulse found at the deepest level, blood pulse found mid-level and the chi pulse found on the surface.  We feel not only the rate but also the pulse volume, width, depth, amplitude, rhythm, and for around 30 classical pulse qualities.  Information gathered here reveals the relative health or dis-ease of each of the meridians and their functions.

The pulse is not only reflective of the functioning of the physical body but also of the state of the mind and the emotions.   In health, the rhythm of the heart is even and steady.  It is neither too slow or too fast.  The volume is full, buoyant, and easily touches the fingers without pounding. This reflects a balanced and even state of body and mind.  Some out of the out of balance signs include a chronically fast heart rate which reflects symptoms of heat in the body and also anxiety and restlessness.  Too slow of a heart beat reflects deficiency of Qi of the heart, which can show up as coldness in the body especially in the limbs and extremities. Actually a slow heartbeat from too much exercise is thought to be harmful because it drains the reserve of heart qi, eventually leading to heart problems.  This would explain the serious heart issues some athletes have had. A slow pulse can also reflect being dispirited or depressed.  A pulse that skips beats irregularly can be a sign of some kind of shock to the system which has thrown the circuitry of the heart out of whack. This can be some kind of emotional shock including sexual trauma, physical shock or chronic overstimulation.  A pulse that is very weak reflects someone who is very tired and who’s body is functioning under capacity. This kind of a pulse is very common amongst people in our culture. A pulse that is too strong can reflect stagnation or heat in the organs which is an indication of their hyper-functioning.

Pulse taking is an art. You can refine it down to being able to diagnose an aneurysm in the heart or cancer malignancy in the lungs.  My teacher says his pulse taking ability is superior to an echo- cardiogram. He can pick up on heart problems that exist on an energetic level long before they even become physically manifest. If you have an ability to pick up on this kind of information you can steer a person away from harm long before it becomes a serious problem. My hope is that this kind of human sensitivity becomes more the norm and that practitioners of Chinese Medicine strive to refine their skills for the benefit of the people they serve.

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