Why Do Acupuncturists Take My Pulse?

Acupuncturists have a few assessments they use to figure out where to work on the body. Typically, these are looking at the tongue, feeling the pulse, and palpating the abdomen. We’ve talked about the tongue before, but what are acupuncturists looking for when they feel the pulse?

An acupuncturist taking the pulse.It should be said first that acupuncturists aren’t just checking for heart rate when feeling the pulse. Instead, they are looking for characteristics that Western medical providers don’t think about, such as the width of the blood vessel or the tension in the vessel wall. They are also looking the depth needed to press to find the pulse, and whether or not the pulse vanishes with further pressure or remains strong. And there’s another set of characteristics around the movement of blood itself. For example, does the pulse vibrate under the finger like a guitar string? Or does it feel like it slides under the finger like a wave? All these things are checked in addition to heart rate, and they are checked at multiple positions on each wrist and the differences from one position to another are compared.

So what does the pulse tell you? A lot. Each pulse position that an acupuncturist checks says something about one of the organs in the body, and it helps your practitioner to know whether that organ needs to be supported, sedated, or regulated in some way. This gives the acupuncturist ideas about where in the body to place the needles. The pulse is also used as a feedback mechanism for treatment. Since our hearts are always beating, the aspects of the pusle that a practitioner looks for can change as needles are placed and later removed. If the different pulse positions change and become more uniform during the course of treatment, then the acupuncturist has a good idea that the treatment was helpful.

As you can imagine, working with the pulse is an art form, and acupuncturists require constant practice to keep up their skills and avoid subjectivity.

Interested to know what your pulse says about you? Schedule your consultation today!