Why do you take the pulses during an acupuncture treatment?

From a Chinese Medicine viewpoint, it is considered that there are 12 energetic systems in the body. These are known by the names of the organs. They consist of: The Heart; The Small Intestine; The Bladder; The Kidneys; The Gall Bladder; The Liver; The Lungs; The Large Intestines; and two functions – the Heart Protector/Pericardium and the Triple Heater.

Each energetic system has a meridian assigned to it, in varying length and covering different parts of the body. Each energetic system also has a list of functions associated with it. For example, the Kidney energetic system is in charge of the soles of the feet, the hearing, body temperature, the palms of the hands, the lower back and of course urination. So if you have have a weak lower back, hot feet, get night sweats and poor hearing, you might think that these are all unrelated but from a Chinese Medicine point of view, this would be indicating an imbalance in the Kidney energetic system.

Each energetic system also has a pulse related to it. So there are 12 pulses, 6 on each wrist. Each system has a sibling energetic system eg the Kidney energy is connected to the Bladder energy; the Lung energy is connected to the Large Intestine energy. So there are 3 pairs of pulses on each wrist. These are palpable upon the radial artery and are to be found at a deep or superficial level.

The pulses are an important diagnostic tool. At the start of each treatment, the Chinese medicine practitioner will “take” or “listen to” the pulses and this will form part of their diagnosis for the client. They will then take the pulses after each part of the treatment and at the end of the full treatment. We will be looking to ensure there has been sufficient change within the pulses for us to feel that the treatment has been sufficient for that day.

Elaine Gibbons

Adv. Lic. Ac., M.B Ac.C.

Photo by Tomás Fano