As people begin taking responsibility for their own health, there is a growing trend toward finding medical systems that emphasize wellness & prevention. ìPrevention depends entirely on an exquisitely sensitive diagnostic scheme which is capable of accessing the process of disease close to its inception. In our time the only marginally available diagnostic instrument of which I am aware that embodies this art & science of diagnosis is the Chinese pulse.î This is a quote by Dr. Leon Hammer from his book for Oriental medical practitioners, ìChinese Pulse Diagnosis: A Contemporary Approach.î Dr. Hammer, a psychiatrist and master of Chinese medicine has spent the last 35 years compiling information that he gathered from his own diverse experiences & his honorable teacher the late Dr. John Shen. His mission has been to bring back the Chinese pulse & its intricate teachings of the human workings. I am very fortunate to have been a student of Dr. Hammer’s for the past decade & I have been given the privilege of teaching this work to other Oriental medical practitioners.

When Chinese medicine came into practice, over 3000 years ago, human kind was unable to look into the body in order to diagnosis. Thus Chinese medical practitioners developed techniques that could diagnose the disease patterns of a person internally through external practices. These practices are still being used today & have been proven to be very effective methods within the Traditional Chinese Medical System. Chinese medicine has several diagnostic techniques that all work together. The tongue is a map of the body- the size the coat, the color, the shape, the cracks all have meaning in this medicine. The color of a person’s skin, the tone of a person’s voice, the shape of their body, the patterning in & around their eyes, the palpation of certain points, all have specific meaning. Also a person’s life story, health & family history are important. The hand is a map of the body in a Korean style & the ear is the map of the body in Auricular therapy. And then there is Contemporary Chinese Pulse diagnosis, a sensitive diagnostic scheme that is capable of accessing the process of disease.

The pulse gives us a road map of a person’s health- mental, emotional, physical & spiritual. There are many pulse diagnostic methods within Oriental medicine, but none as detailed as this Contemporary Chinese Pulse method. The process of this particular pulse taking method can take 20-60 minutes. The pulse is located on the radial artery of both wrists. A practitioner rests three fingers on the wrist & reads 22 positions, at least 48 qualities & 3 depths on varied locations within this small region. It gives a picture of the health of each organ as it relates to the whole person. The rate & rhythm are also very important, the pulse being a reflection of the Heart. In Chinese medicine the Heart is the Emperor that rules the entire system. The pulse reading is combined with the other crucial Chinese medical diagnostic techniques of look, listen, feel & ask. After gathering all of the information, the practitioner will develop a complex diagnosis and treatment plan. Treatment could include acupuncture, herbal treatment, modifying diet, exercise, massage, & possible referral to other therapies including an allopathic referral if something of possible concern has been detected.

Through pulse interpretation, questions may be answered such as the strength of a person’s constitution- are they a strong robust constitution or one that is more delicate? Did a person start out with a strong constitution but became weaker due of environment, abuse, stress, poor eating habits, excessive drinking or drug habits, trauma or other events? Or were they born into a delicate constitution because of genetics, or complications resulting while in the womb or at birth? (i.e. birth mother sick during pregnancy, breech or cesarean). Has a person had a shock or trauma in their life; a significant illness; a nervous system that has been running on over drive; a life story that has effected their cellular patterning? If the answer is yes to any or all of these questions, the pulse will show a significant disharmony in the organ or organs that are most effected. If these disharmonies or imbalances are not identified & corrected then they could lead to physiological &/or emotional disorders sooner or later.

Let’s look at shock as something that can disrupt the rhythms of the body. Most of us have had some kind of trauma or shock in our lives whether physical, emotion or spiritual – the degree is situational as well as how trauma effects each individual. One single event or a series of events can shock one’s system & change one’s patterning. Look at how the events on September 11, 2001 effected individuals, communities, countries, our world. It has changed our patterning to the core. The pulse will reflect this change. As a practitioner, I can tell you that pulses after this event showed a certain degree of shock in everyone’s systems. Practitioners in NYC experienced pulses that expressed very severe shock in individual systems. If gone untreated at an energetic level, this shock could eventually manifest into something greater.

The Contemporary Chinese Pulse views an individual’s process in life’s continuum; from conception to the present leading into the future. It can reveal the health of a person & where they are heading if they continue on their current course. The pulse helps to identify patterns that need to be changed based on the practice of Oriental medicine, working with the whole person- body, mind, spirit, & heart. It is a remarkable insight into the health of a person & a preventive guide to achieve optimal health now and in years to come.

Susan B. Goldstone, L.Ac, has been practicing Oriental Medical in the Triad for the past decade. She is an instructor of the Contemporary Chinese Pulse Diagnosis System. Susan weaves this system into her diverse practice along with 14 years of counseling experience, massage, craniosacral and lymphatic drainage therapy.

Published in The Art of Wellbeing, 2003.