Diagnosis in TCM consists of various forms of observation including
visual, auditory, olfactory, touch, and questioning. These observations
take the form of descriptions of color, moisture and heat, among many
others to ultimately identify a pattern that can be subsequently
Methods for diagnostic pattern recognition include the following:
The Yin/Yang and five element theories may be applied to a variety of
systems other than the body, whereas Zang Fu theory, meridian theory and
three-jiao (Triple warmer) theories are more specific. Separate models
apply to specific pathological influences, such as the Four stages
theory of the progression of warm diseases, the Six levels theory of the
penetration of cold diseases, and the Eight principles system of disease
Following a "macro" philosophy of disease, traditional Chinese
diagnostics are based on overall observation of human symptoms rather
than "micro" level laboratory tests. There are four types of TCM
diagnostic methods: observe, listen and smell, ask about background and
touching. The pulse-reading component of the touching examination is so
important that Chinese patients may refer to going to the doctor as
"Going to have my pulse felt."
Traditional Chinese medicine requires considerable diagnostic skill. A
training period of years or decades is necessary for TCM practitioners
to understand the full complexity of symptoms and dynamic balances.
According to one Chinese saying, A good (TCM) doctor is also qualified
to be a good prime minister in a country. Modern practitioners in China
often combine a traditional system with Western methods.
- Palpation of the
patient's radial artery pulse (pulse diagnosis) in six positions
- Observations of patient's tongue, voice, hair, face, posture, gait,
eyes, ears, vein on index finger of small children
- Palpation of the patient's body (especially the abdomen, chest, back,
and lumbar areas) for tenderness or comparison of relative warmth or
coolness of different parts of the body
- Observation of the patient's various odors
- Asking the patient about the effects of their problem.
- Anything else that can be observed without instruments and without
harming the patient
- Asking detailed questions about their family, living environment,
personal habits, food diet, emotions, menstrual cycle for women, child
bearing history, sleep, exercise, and anything that may give insight
into the balance or imbalance of an individual.