Japanese acupuncture and herbal medicine also rely on pulse diagnosis. Learning how to master pulse diagnosis requires many years of practice. However, even newly educated acupuncturists will be able to draw use from the immediate and specific information the pulse gives, which in its turn can help clarify contradictory diagnostic information and symptoms. Combined with tongue diagnosis, palpation and medical history, the pulse image forms the foundation for treatment in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM).

Pulse description, qualities and clinical relevance

The pulse is generally checked on both wrists and is measured at three levels. The different levels will ascertain where in the body the disease has placed itself, and at what level it needs to be treated. It will also give an indication as to the general flow of Qi (life energy) in the body, and whether meridian functions/vital organs are imbalanced in relation to each other. The three levels are as follows:

  1. Superficial (skin) level: Usually indicates external pathogenic factors.

  2. Middle level: General indication of Qi.

  3. Deep level: Reveals internal conditions.

One measures depth, strength, speed and general rhythm.

The description of a normal pulse will be that it can be felt in all nine positions, the quality of the pulse should be firm, but not taught, and the rhythm should be balanced and even, beating at around 60-90 beats per minute.