Why does my Acupuncturist take my pulse? The Chinese art of pulse reading

The art of pulse taking

Why does my Acupuncturist take my pulse? The Chinese art of pulse reading

Chinese Medicine (TCM) is “a millennia old honourable and invaluable medical system as relevant now as it was two thousand years ago” (1) 

Chinese Medical pulse taking is deeply rooted in Chinese medical history, with the Mai Jing (The Pulse classic – 脉经) was compiled by Wang Shuhe, an imperial physician during the Western Jin (265‒316), it’s the first text devoted solely to descriptions of the radial pulse findings. It relied heavily on previous texts of the Huang Di Nei Jing, Nan Jing and works of Zhang Zhong Jing. 

Chinese medical pulse taking is considered highly important for diagnostics, and forms the basis of treatment in many ailments and illness. However it was not until the modern era that pulse positions and findings have been associated with biomedical knowledge. The current pulse system brings together 2000 years of empirical evidence to form a modern diagnostic tool. 

Dr Zhang Wei Yan (Dr Jimmy Chang) a Taiwanese practitioner practicing in Los Angeles, CA developed a unique system where he defined a normal pulse and deviations at each position. 

The process of pulse diagnosis is based upon simple fluid dynamics; as blood travels down the forearm, in the radial artery, it bounces against the bone at the wrist called the scaphoid bone. This event creates a slight backflow of blood, and a resulting wave pattern. Chinese doctors discovered that these wave patterns correspond to certain changes in various regions of the body, and developed refined diagnostic method based up this (1).

Simple put when we take your pulse, we place three fingers over the radial artery in your wrist. Each of my fingers rests on a different section of the pulse: front; middle; and rear. Each section correlates with different organs. We feel for the pulse rate, but our fingers also search for pulse length, depth and quality because to us these pulse attributes are equally important. When we put all this information together, we learn more about your wellness. Here are some examples;





  • fast pulse indicates excessive “heat” in the body. “Heat” in the body and this pulse is often present when there is a fever, an inflammatory condition, or increased stress on the nervous system.
  • slow pulse indicates a “cold” condition or could point to a particular body system that functioning in an inefficient or sluggish way. This pulse is often present when there are problems with hypothyroidism, poor blood circulation, often seen in those with cold hands and feet.




  • strong pulse indicates “excess” of some kind in the body. This pulse is often present with high blood pressure, and headaches.
  • weak pulse indicates a “deficiency” of some kind in the body. This pulse is often present with fatigue, or low blood pressure.




  • thin or thready pulse indicates “Blood deficiency” or “Fluid deficiency”. This pulse is often iron deficiency, fatigue, weakness, insomnia, nutrient deficiencies, and sub-optimal digestive absorption.





  1. Robert Doane, Adi Korman, Marcus Gadau (2018) Fundamentals of Chinese Medical Pulse Diagnosis (MPD), Lucky Falcon 
  2. https://www.acupuncturetoday.com/abc/pulsediagnosis.php
  3. http://www.itmonline.org/arts/pulse.htm


About the author

Lauren Lanzoni

Lauren Surridge is the Acupuncturist, Chinese Herbalist and owner of Balanced Life Health Care. To find out more about Lauren click here and to make an appointment to see Lauren at her clinic in Ferntree Gully click here