How does an acupuncturist know what’s going on? There are many ways. They look. They look at the patient.They notice the colors around the sides of the eyes and under them. They notice the color of the skin. They notice the way a person walks and moves. They notice the expression on the face or lack thereof. They look at the tongue.
The acupuncturist listens. They ask many, many, questions about the person’s health and their health history. They listen to the responses, looking for patterns and themes. They listen to what seems important to the patient. They listen to what the patient focuses on while they discuss their health.
We hear. We hear the sound of their voices. We listen for the tone of their voice to tell us about their internal organs. Do they laugh easily? Does their voice sound like a groan?
An acupuncturist smells the patient. The way a body smells tells an acupuncturist something about what is going on with the patient. It is one reason that artificial fragrances are not allowed in an acupuncturist’s office.
They touch. They palpate tender areas and they feel the pulses.
Within the diagnostic scope, the tongue and pulses are two of the most important in traditional acupuncture. The tongue tells a lot about what is going on inside. The acupuncturist notices the coating. Is there a coat? What color? How thick? Is it dry or is it sort of greasy?
The color of the tongue itself is important. Is it purple or pink or pale? Is it moist or dry? Does it have teeth marks along the edges? Is the tip the same color or is it different? Where is it pale or orange or pink or red or purple? Does it quiver or veer to one side? All this information is important in diagnosis.
The pulses can be even more important. The acupuncturist feels the pulse in six different places and at two levels. They are feeling for the quality of the pulse in each place, not just the speed. Each area corresponds to one of the organ systems and what is going on with the pulse in that area will tell an acupuncturist more about that system. This is an art and takes many years to become very, very good at.