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Both Eastern and Western medical traditions assess health using the pulse in the radial artery of the wrist. Traditional Chinese and Ayurvedic practitioners distinguish up to nine pulses on each wrist, which are said to reflect the condition of internal organs and the flow of "life energy" throughout the body. Western practitioners use only one pulse point on the wrist to check the rate at which blood pumps from the heart. From this they may diagnose heart disorders and circulatory problems.
An Asian health care practitioner tests a pulse in this illustration of 1632.
WESTERN PULSE DIAGNOSIS
A health care practitioner of Western therapies lays two fingers on the inside of the patient's wrist to test the pulse of blood. The average adult pulse is 60 to 80 beats per minute.
Practitioners of Western complementary therapies often use pulse diagnosis in the same way as conventional medical practitioners - to measure the rate at which blood pulses through the arteries after each heartbeat. The practitioner uses two fingertips to feel the pulse in the radial artery of the wrist. An abnormally fast or slow pulse may be a sign of illness. In addition to this method, two further variations are used by some practitioners.
PULSE-TESTING FOR REACTIONS TO FOOD
Devised in the 1940s by American allergist Dr. Arthur Coca, this method claims to diagnose food allergies and intolerances. The pulse is taken before eating a suspect food, then at 10-, 20-, 40-, and 60-minute intervals afterward. An increase or decrease in the rate of 10 or more beats per minute is said to indicate an abnormal reaction.
AURICULOCARDIAC REFLEX METHOD
According to Dr. Paul Nogier, the French practitioner who developed auricular acupuncture in the 1950s, specific points on the ear relate to different parts of the body. He claimed that when a point is stimulated using a special electromagnetic indicator, types of light, or the blunt end of an acupuncture needle, a surge in the wrist pulse can occur, which indicates disharmony in the related body part.
CHINESE PULSE DIAGNOSIS
In Traditional Chinese Medicine, the practitioner assesses the flow of qi and the state of body organs by using three fingers to test pulse readings on each wrist.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), pulse-taking is an essential diagnostic technique. Three pulse points - known as cuen, guan, and chi - are identified on the radial artery of the wrist, using the index, middle, and ring fingers.
From the strength and rhythm of the pulses, the practitioner assesses the flow of qi or "life energy", in the body, and the interaction of the forces of yin and yang. Qi is said to be carried through the body via channels linked to body organs, such as the Heart, Kidneys, Liver, Lungs, Large and Small Intestines, Spleen, and Stomach. Assessing the flow of qi provides information about the condition of these organs.
The practitioner will apply light, moderate, and deep pressure to the pulse points, giving nine pulse readings on each wrist. The pressure levels relate to the three qualities necessary for a healthy pulse. Under light pressure, it must be calm and regular, when it is said to have Stomach qi, the sign of a good constitution. Under moderate pressure, it should be even and forceful, having shen, or vitality. If this can still be felt when pressing firmly, the pulse has geng, or "root". There are 28 basic types of pulse, including "floating", "feeble", "slow", "rapid", and "slippery".
AYURVEDIC PULSE DIAGNOSIS
An Ayurvedic practitioner uses the index, middle, and ring fingers to locate three pulse points, which are related to the flow of prana in the body and the three doshas.
Pulse diagnosis in Ayurveda is based on principles similar to those of TCM. Practitioners check three deep and three superficial pulse points on each wrist to analyze the strength, vitality, and physical state of specific organs and also of the nadi, channels which circulate prana, or "life energy", through the body.
Each pulse point is also related to one of the doshas, or vital energies, believed to define every individual. One dosha and one pulse tend to predominate. The pulse nearest the nadi (the quick, slithery "snake pulse") is vata; the middle pulse (jumpy, often called "the frog") is pitta; and the point furthest from the hand (the slow, floating "swan pulse") is kapha.
CONVENTIONAL MEDICAL OPINION
Pulse taking for food allergies is not seen as dependable by most conventional practitioners. There is no laboratory equipment sensitive enough to measure the pulses that practitioners of Chinese medicine and Ayurveda claim to detect, and conventional Western practitioners find it difficult to believe that such subtleties exist.
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