Drs Martin & Sue Allbright  

'Blending an ancient medical approach of mind and body with modern health'


Classical Acupuncture

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12th April 2024

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So how do we use the information from the Chinese pulses?

We were both taught in our conventional medical training that the diagnosis of a person’s health problem was made from 60-70% of the history, 20-30% from the examination and 10% from investigations.

In classical five element acupuncture the way we take your history and examine you provides us with extra and slightly different information about your health. The examining of Chinese pulses is a significant part in this process. Reading the pulses is a unique and elegant way of gathering an enormous amount of information about the energy that you have. It is an additional diagnostic aid which combined with all the other information about you helps us confirm what we are observing about the state of your health.

Every time we do a treatment and through out a treatment session, whether it be with acupuncture needles, moxibustion or tuning forks, we frequently read your pulses to monitor how you respond.

Pulse reading cannot be used to make a conventional medical diagnosis but they frequently confirm what is happening.  

Pulse reading is part of an information gathering and monitoring process to assess your chi energy and evaluate how you repond to treatment.

Over the years of treating and monitoring with this skill, we observe the chi energy of a person improving in both quantity and quality. When this happens we then see the immune and healing systems ‘kicking in’ to start to improve your condition.

AcuMedic Review  18 Mar 2007 The first pulsograph www.acumedic.com/pdf/review07.pdf - Similar

Oriental Pulse Waveform

Electro-Pulse Graph Research Association

Modern Techniques of Acupuncture: Practical Scientific Guide to Electro-acupuncture v. 2 (Hardcover) by Julian N. Kenyon (Author)

Feeling or examining Chinese pulses


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Every effort has been made to ensure that the information provided in this site is accurate. It is not the intention to mislead or misinform anyone.

 Chinese pulse diagnosis, diagnosing pulses in Chinese medicine, Pulse reading, Acupuncture pulse diagnosing, Feeling Chinese pulses, reading Chinese pulses, reading pulses, acupuncture pulses, radial pulses, Oriental pulse taking,

Chinese pulse taking

How and why the Chinese started to use ‘pulse diagnosis’ to evaluate a person’s state of health is not exactly known. Its use in Chinese medicine goes back at least a couple of thousands of years. The skill is completely different, and totally foreign to conventional medicine, which consequently makes it extremely difficult for many doctors to understand.

As traditional acupuncturists we are sensing a pulse wave of energy on the surface of the radial artery which relates to the chi of a person. We are feeling the strength/weakness, similarities/differences of pulsed energy on the surface of the artery. As the state of a persons chi alters so it can be felt in the Chinese pulses. It is a skill that needs to be learnt by regular disciplined practice and takes a long time for a persons finger tips to develop the sensitivity needed.

What we would like to share here is

  1. How Chinese pulses are felt
  2. The history as to why there are twelve pulse readings
  3. How we use the information from ‘pulse reading’.

First of all what is the procedure for feeling Chinese pulses?

The Chinese pulse is taken at both the left and right radial artery. The position of the fingers are important, the middle finger is exactly level with the radial styloid process. The index and ring finger are then used to feel the pulses on either side of the middle finger.

The most sensitive part of the finger to read pulses with is the tip and not the pad. One finger tip is placed at a time. The finger tip is feeling very lightly on the surface of the artery this is called the the superficial reading. Then the finger tip is pressed just a slightly bit deeper to get a second reading called the deeper reading. This process starts with using the index finger and when it is finished you lift it off and you then repeat the process with the middle finger and then finally the ring finger. Giving a total of two readings at each finger position, ie six on the one radial artery. The whole process is then repeated on the other radial artery on the opposite side of a person. A total of twelve readings can then be collected.

Why are there twelve readings?

Before you see the names of the individual pulses and their locations we need to share with you some of the origins and beliefs of Chinese medicine. Over many, many years Chinese health practitioners observed a person's movement and changes of energy or chi around the body. Over time they discovered points on the body that if treated in some way affected the chi of a person such that their health either got better or transiently deteriorated for a few days. With observations collected over many years they started to join these points together and theorised that the points were connected together on an energy line. These energy lines were eventually called meridians or channels (the Chinese term means an ‘underground stream’). Today we know that after microscopic anatomical dissection, no physical manifestation of these channels has been found. However there is other evidence to suggest there are energy lines and specific points on the skin that relate to these acupuncture points.

All over the world each race and nationality has attempted to find out about themselves. In the book ‘Who am I: Personality types’ by Robert Frager, he covers the many different ways we can be categorised. A very simple basic present day classification of looking at health profiles is that of type A personality and type B personality. (One person very wound up and highly strung being prone to certain illnesses’ and the other type of person very laid back and relaxed.)

Over two thousand years ago the Chinese doctors were closely observing particular patterns of form and with it signals of behaviour in health and illness (without the knowledge of anatomy and physiology). The Chinese doctors looked at people’s behaviour and illness and developed a diagnostic model. This model is based around observing twelve aspects of behaviour within a person. They say the original idea for these twelve aspects came from the time when the Chinese were governed by the Emperor and his eleven Ministers. This aspect of observing human behaviour, beliefs and physical changes has grown immensely in the last few years into the subject of neuro-psycho-immunology.

Here is the ancient Chinese medical model of twelve aspects that make up our human behaviour.

1. The role of control

2. The role of sorting the pure from the impure

3. The role of storing water

4. The role of regulating the flow of water

5. The role of protection

6. The role of a heating engineer

7. The role of making decisions

8. The role of making plans

9. The role of being able to receive purity

10. The role of letting go of rubbish

11. The role of nurturing and nourishment

12. The role of transporting and distribution

This model of observed human behaviour grew up at a time when the religious and social beliefs meant that anatomy, dissection and surgery were a taboo area. It was many years later when the Chinese did acquire the knowledge of anatomy did they then start to connect our physical organs and functions to these twelve roles. Present Chinese medical terminology has meant that the old role names have been superceded by the anatomical names.

The nomenclature  used below of organs and functions is what is now used in present day acupuncture to label the twelve pulses and their corresponding meridians. This re naming process to physical organs and functions has meant that for many practitioners of acupuncture they have very little or no understanding of the very important original aspects of traditional acupuncture and the essence of the energy roles.

Here are the translations of the roles to their respective organ - functions and a diagram below showing the positions on the radial artery where the chi energy relating to them they can be felt.

Some of these relationships between role and organ seem quite obvious, others are more difficult to understand but this web page is not the place to explain the interpretation.

1. The role of control - heart

2. The role of sorting the the pure from the impure - small intestine

3. The role of storing water - bladder

4. The role of regulating the flow water - kidney

5. The role protection - circulation-sex (pericardium)

6. The role of a heating engineer - temperature regulation (triple heater)

7. The role of making decisions - gallbladder

8. The role of making plans - liver

9. The role of being able to receive purity - lungs

10. The role of letting go of rubbish - colon

11. The role of nurturing and nourishment - stomach

12. The role of transporting and distribution - spleen

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