Our pulse is a familiar exerience for many of us.
In the medical world, our pulse is a key factor in the diagnosis of our health, and in looking for the sources and reasons for our ill health. It can provide key information on what is going on inside our bodies, both at a general and the very specific level.
In western medical tradition, key factors are the rate, rhythm and the amplitude of the pulse.
In traditional chinese medicine, the practitioner feels the patient’s pulse in a variety of body locations. Key evaluation parameters are the frequency, quality, shape, strength, depth and rhythm of the pulse.
Tibetan medicine has a similar apporach. Here our pulse is regarded as an intermediary allowing the practitioner to attune to and listen in to the activity of the patient’s body.
This hands-on method requires almost total stillness by the practitioner, creating a silent and attentive space so the patient’s body can tell its story.
The practitioner observes the speed, then the strength, prominence, substance, tension and firmness of the pulse. Pulses are divided into two main types, known as hot and cold. Some are more masculine than others, whilst some are regarded as feminine.
In the world of Ayruveda, pulse diagnosis is equally important, and it has some elegant terms to describe the variety of pulses found, such as:
A Snake pulse, which is described as irregular and thin moving in waves like the motion of a serpent. A frog pulse, which is a pulse which is active, excited, and move like jumping of a frog. While a throbbing of the pulse under the ring finger where the pulse feels strong and its movement resembles the floating of a swan.
Factors such as the season of the year, has the person been exerting themselves physically, what medication are they on and time of day can all influence a person’s pulse, and must be factored into the diagnosis.
In all the above traditions, great skill and practice are required to get the correct diagnosis. In the hands of a skilled practitioner, the pulse can be used to accurately assist in the diagnosis many problems.