When you come for treatment I will check your pulse. I use three fingers on the radial pulse of both of your hands to build a picture of what is going on in your body.
We use pulse taking to measure the different qualities of QI (energy) in different parts of the body. To understand this we must first understand qi. Qi in its most basic terms can be called energy, or life force, without it we are not alive. Qi incorporates all energy some examples include flesh, blood, nerve impulses, light, and emotions. Qi is in a constant flux, it cannot be destroyed but it changes in its manifestation.
Therefore when I feel your pulse I am feeling for changes in the quality of the qi. These changes tell me where disharmonies may lie.
There are many ways to feel the pulse and identify imbalances or disharmonies of the qi. In basic terms the picture above demonstrates where I feel the pulse, and what organ systems I feel for.
The quality of the qi can be very different under each finger. As I feel the pulse I am feeling for these different qualities. I ask myself is the energy strong or weak, rapid or slow, deep or floating, regular or irregular. There are also other qualities for example fullness, choppy, wiry, slippery, thready, and/or thin. All of these different qualities help me to create a picture of what is happening within the body.
An example of what the pulse might feel like is when the lung energy is floating at the surface and the spleen energy is sunken and I must press harder to feel it. The floating energy of the lung could tell me that there is an external pathogen attacking the body, for example a common cold. The floating demonstrates that the body is trying to fight something on the surface, it therefore sends more qi there to defend the body.
The sunken qi of the spleen could mean that the digestive energy is weak, it could be something that is happening due to the external pathogen or it could be an underlying condition. Further diagnostic tools are needed to create the full picture, the pulse on its own only gives me half the picture.