To an acupuncturist, the pulse can be the most important indication of what the treatment requires.
Taking the pulse is an art that takes years to perfect, but it is easy to gather basic information about the state of the patient's health with general palpation.
To begin, there are six positions on each wrist that correspond to the organ systems of the patient.
The positions begin slightly above the styloid process of the radius, where the radial artery can be felt.
On the left hand, the top position, closest to the hand, is the Heart.
If you place your index finger on this position, and then let your middle and ring fingers rest below this finger, the middle finger will be resting on the Liver position, and the ring finger will be on the Kidney.
On the right hand, the first position (where the Heart position was on the opposite hand) is the Lung position.
Below the Lung is the Spleen, and the furthest position from the hand is the Pericardium.
The pulses of these organ systems can be felt with deep palpation.
If the fingers are pressed tightly down, almost to the bone, they will be pressing upon the pulses of these six organs.
If the fingers are slowly lifted up, there six pulses that can be felt separately, which rest atop the six deeper pulses.
The pulse that rests atop the Heart is the Small Intestine pulse.
The Gallbladder pulse is on top of the Liver, and the Bladder is on top of the Kidney.
On the right hand, the Large Intestine is the top pulse, followed by the Stomach and Triple Burner.
When the practitioner touches the pulses, he is feeling for imbalances within these organ systems.
If the pulse is weak or deep in any of these positions, he can detect a deficiency within the system.
If any of the pulses seems to override the others or have too much strength, it can be an excess of that organ.
It may also be a sign that there is an external pathogen trying to work its way into the system.
For example, if the Lung pulse seems to be excessive or stands out above the rest, it can correspond to an invasion of wind or cold in the body-in Western terms, catching a cold.
The general feel of the pulses can be telling of issues within the body, as well.
A slow pulse can mean that there is excess cold in the body, and a fast pulse usually relates to heat.
If the pulse feels strong and forceful, almost like beads are flowing through it, the pulse is referred to as "slippery.
" This type of pulse can point to issues with fluid distribution within the body.
It can also be a sign of pregnancy.
If the pulse feels like a tight wire vibrating, it is described as "wiry".
This pulse points to Liver imbalances, stress, anger, and menstrual issues.
Although these two pulse types are the most common, there are a number of variations within the pulses that signal any number of disharmonies within the blood and qi of the body.
A trained practitioner can pick up these subtle nuances and use it as a guide to solve the mysteries that are held within each of us.