Methods of diagnosis

The traditional Chinese physician, like his Western counterpart, takes a history and notes the patient’s general appearance and demeanour. Particular attention is paid to the tongue: its colour, coating and so on. The most important examination, however, is that of the pulse.

This is felt at the wrist at three locations on each side and both superficially and deeply, giving a total of 12 pulses which are related to the 12 internal organs. (Some sources give even larger numbers of pulses.) The quality of the pulse is described in terms such as slippery, rough, and wiry. A skilful physician is said to be able to derive an astonishing amount of information from the pulse alone, but learning the art requires thorough training, long experience, and the gift of intuition or sensitivity. The information it provides is of course couched in terms of TCM, and it is difficult or impossible to translate these into modern concepts.

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