Arriving At A Diagnosis in Chinese Medicine
The observation step accesses the patient's skin, eyes, tongue, nails and also how the
patient walks (and overall physical appearance), the openness the patient exhibits (or not), and the overall
emotional demeanor of the patient. The observation phase of the diagnostic step starts as soon as the practitioner
first lays eyes on the patient.
Chinese Alternative Medicine
There are four main steps taken when arriving at a diagnosis when practicing Chinese medicine.
The four steps are observation, listening & Smelling, Questioning, and Palpation. All of these steps give
the practitioner clues as to how the patient's life force is doing.
The observation step accesses the patient's skin, eyes, tongue, nails and also how the patient walks (and
overall physical appearance), the openness the patient exhibits (or not), and the overall emotional demeanor of the
The observation phase of the diagnostic step starts as soon as the practitioner first lays eyes on the patient.
There are 4 areas that are being assessed in order to determine how serious the condition is that brought the
patient to be seen.
The 4 areas are: Vitality, body appearance, facial features and the appearance of the tongue.
The vitality encompasses the color, complexion and luster of the skin, the appearance of the face, the flow of the
face, the state of the blood and qi.
The color is important because black eye circles may indicate kidney weakness, red coloring is linked to the
heart and blue or black coloring is also linked to the kidneys and blue-green indicates possible liver involvement
and white suggests a lung problem. The body's appearance includes type of build, presence of fat, and also body
Facial features include expressions of being happy, sad, or anxious. The tongue's appearance is key to the
diagnostic procedure and the color, shape, any coating, and texture of the tongue is noted.
The listening and smelling step focuses mainly on the sound of the patient's voice and any breathing sounds
being made by the patient. An assessment is also made to determine if there are any breath or body odors.
The questioning step is the information gathering stage for all present and past complaints, especially about
eating habits, digestion, bowel and bladder habits, the presence of sweat, or pain and a determination of how well
the patient has been sleeping, the family health history, work history, and any daily habits are discussed as well
as any physical environmental aspects that may influence the individual as well as the patient's emotional
American College Of Traditional Chinese MedicineThese can be overridden through acupuncture because acupuncture excites the pain inhibitory nerve fibers for a short duration of time thus blocking the perception of pain. The effects of acupuncture can last for months after the needle is removed.
Another theory used to explain the effectiveness of acupuncture is that of "counter-pain". When the body experiences pain in another region it does not perceive the pain in a different region. This may explain mild pain, but is not very valid for severe pain or long-term pain.
The Foundations of Chinese Medicine: A Comprehensive Text for Acupuncturists and Herbalists. Second Edition
The last step, palpation involves touching the patient's body so that a temperature can be taken, the presence
of moisture is noted, any pain or sensitivity is also assessed as well as the pulse is taken.
The pulse tells a lot about the patient's condition and is important to the diagnostic procedure. The Chinese
practitioner places 3 fingers on each wrist to measure a total of 12 pulses. Each of the 12 pulses corresponds to a
meridian. There are 14 different pulse characteristics. These characteristics are: empty, full, rapid and slow. The
pulse is used to determine which organ is involved in the illness or imbalance.
After the diagnosis, treatments are used to adjust or to restore the yin/yang balance within the body. Usually
there are more than one therapy prescribed.
The therapies include: acupuncture, acupressure, food therapy, exercise, and herbal therapy. The choice of
therapy is directly related to the diagnosis and the findings during the diagnostic procedure.