The theory and preactice of Chinese medical diagnosis, especially as applied to acupuncture, form a highly refined craft that draws on many strands and currents of theory and empirical knowledge. We employ all the senses throughout the therapeutic encounter to build a picture of the energetic health state of the patient. This process is more like ‘pattern matching’ than a linear deduction process.

Some of the specific methods employed are:

  • pulse taking
  • looking at the tongue
  • palpating reflex zones and circulation channels on the surface of the body
  • using smell, touch and sound to categorise the patients presentation

The practitioner describes the presentation of the patient in terms of the patterns they manifest. In modern TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) these are known as the Eight Fundamental Patterns: Interior, Exterior; Heat, Cold; Excess, Deficiency; Yin, Yang. These terms are used to describe the way that disharmony is created in the mind/body/spirit.

Acupuncturists also employ pattern matching using the so called 5 elements – earth, metal, water, wood and fire. These directly correspond to the mapped circulation channels and their acu-points.

Additionally, especially when muscular skeletal pain is being treated, we use palpation to identify myofascial trigger points and ‘Ashi’ (ouch!) points. There are also a number of systems for finding points distal to the areas of pain to effectively treat the pain.