Pulses in Chinese Medicine

Often when I feel a person’s radial pulse (on the inside of your forearm, on the thumb side) during their first treatment, they are quick to tell me what their doctor has told them it means in the past. They  are mostly only familiar with the pulse rate (i.e. 60 beats per minute). Chinese medicine does take the pulse rate into account, but the rate is only a very small fraction of the information that’s available in the pulse!



Above is a diagram of all of the pulse positions we are palpating for when we take a person’s pulse. The pulse can reveal the state of blood, qi, body fluids, yin and yang in the body. Furthermore, it can reveal all of those things in each of the 12 main meridians. It’s complicated stuff! Pulse taking is something that I imagine takes lifetimes to perfect. Some very advanced practitioners claim they can determine the sex of a pregnant woman’s baby based on the pulse! (I’m not that advanced yet)

Some common descriptors for the pulse are; wiry, tight, slippery, weak and forceful. Each of these descriptors tells us whether there is excess or deficiency in the body, and where. These qualities also allow us to uncover what specifically is deficient or excessive.

For example, a blood deficient person’s pulse might feel weak, particularly in the liver position, which is responsible for storing blood in the body.  Meanwhile, a person with a lot of excess heat would likely have a forceful pulse and the position where it feels most excessive may indicate where that heat is in the body.

The pulse is only one component of Chinese medical diagnosis, and the information it provides is compiled with all of the other information from the tongue and questions I ask during the intake. Questions? Contact me here.

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