Chinese Medicine Diagnosis (Part IV): Palpation

Chinese Medicine Diagnosis (Part IV): Palpation

Palpation in Chinese medicine diagnosis includes two parts: general palpation of the body in the affected area(s) and palpation of the pulse on the radial artery near the wrist.

1. What is general palpation of the body?

This is the diagnosis method in which the practitioner uses their hands or fingers to palpate the affected area involved in your complaint. This includes the channels and points and certain areas of the body associated to collect information on the cause of the problem. This may include changes in the Yin, Yang, Qi and Blood, characteristics of the disease and location.

During palpation attention is paid to the following issues:

i) Temperature of the skin (cold, warm or hot), moisture or dryness of the skin, rashes or bruises (raised or flat).

ii) Pain level upon palpation, location, numbness, uncomfortable sensations of the skin.

iii) Lumps: size, hard or soft, deep or shallow in the muscle.

iv) Oedema: location, size of the area.

Some examples for this section include:

a) During palpation pain is more severe on the lateral side of the leg and around the hip (sciatic pain): May indicate Stagnation in the Gall Bladder channel.

b) During palpation after pressing the skin takes time to come back up on the medial side of the ankle, with lower back pain, lack of energy, frequent urination in the evening: May indicate Kidney Yang deficiency.

c) Dry skin, thin body, thirst, constipation and dry stools: May indicate Yin deficiency.

d) The skin is warm with sweat: May indicate excessive internal organ heat.

2. What is pulse diagnosis?

Pulse diagnosis is a treasure of traditional Chinese medicine. It is a very unique method of diagnosis practiced in traditional Chinese medicine for over two thousand years.

i) Location: The practitioner places three fingers on the lateral side of the wrist on the radial artery. The pulse of both wrists are checked.

ii) Shapes of the pulse: The practitioner feels for differences at each finger position including the width, force and depth of the pulse.

iii) Rate of the pulse: The practitioner takes this into account, however, Chinese medicine pulse diagnosis does not solely measure the rate of the pulse.

Some examples for this section include:

a) Taut pulse: May indicate a Liver disorder or the body is under stress.

b) Deep and slow pulse with a lack of energy: May indicate Yang or Qi deficiency.

I will write a special article to give more information about pulse taking diagnosis, if you are interested in more details.

3. How do you cooperate with your practitioner’s palpation diagnosis methods?

i) Thirty minutes before your consultation avoid drinking excessively hot water, alcohol and coffee.

ii) Thirty minutes before your consultation avoid doing strong exercise, and try to avoid emotional issues.

iii) Avoid overeating before your consultation.

iv) Make sure during palpation that your position is comfortable.

v) If you have a pain complaint, please mention to your practitioner the amount and timing of your pain medication (if taken before) to ensure that the practitioner can get an accurate idea of your pain levels.

vi) If you cannot avoid the issues mentioned in (i) and (ii) please inform your practitioner during consultation.

Palpation plays a very important role in our consultation and diagnosis. It can directly indicate to the practitioner the cause of the disease or imbalance in the body.

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Dr Ping Wang is the clinic founder and senior practitioner of Ping Ming Health. She has over 30 years of experience in traditional Chinese medicine teaching and practice. Dr Ping especially enjoys sharing her knowledge of Chinese medicine through our popular clinic articles, seminars and clinical training of students and practitioners.