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Diagnosis: The Methods Used in TCM

For diagnosis, TCM practitioners closely observe the patient's outward appearance; they listen to the voice and breath, and note the smell of the breath, skin, and secretions. They question the patient closely about current complaints, family health history, personal health history, and lifestyle. Through touch (or palpation) they examine the skin, muscles, pulse, joints, and qi-based diagnostic points.

However, unlike Western medicine, in which the pulse is taken simply to determine the heart rate, taking the pulse in Chinese medicine is a complex and subtle procedure. Pulses are felt at six locations and three depths on each wrist, and are believed to have twenty-eight qualities. As one instance, a slow or tense pulse points to a cold syndrome, and a weak or thin pulse indicates deficiency. Pulses help the practitioner to determine the condition of qi.

In TCM, the tongue is believed to be another mirror of the body, so TCM practitioners observe its color, texture, thickness, indentations, and coating.

Based on all this information, the practitioner notes the patient's pattern of disharmony. He or she then applies some or all of the following modalities.

  • Acupuncture, which is the primary TCM intervention used in the United States today.

  • Moxibustion, in which acupuncture points are stimulated with heat.

  • Cupping, in which a warm, hollow jar is placed on the skin to increase circulation.

  • Massage and manipulation, in which fingertip or hand pressure is applied to the acupuncture points.

  • Herbal medicine, which is the dominant TCM intervention in China.

  • Qi Gong, which is an ancient system of exercise that integrates movement, breath, and meditation to help the flow of qi.

  • Diet and nutrition, in which an individualized diet is based on the patient's constitution and pattern of illness.


Frequently, each one of these modalities is used in a comprehensive, synergistic program that balances the body's energy systems and stimulates vitality and immunity.




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Copyright © 2000 by Dr. Kenneth R. Pelletier, Inc.
Reprinted by permission of Simon & Schuster, Inc., New York, New York.

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