Do you ever wonder how we come up with your TCM diagnosis? How do we get from lower back pain to kidney yin deficiency? And why do we say your insomnia is coming from your spleen? East Asian medicine practitioners have many different ways to look at the body and it all comes together to show the underlying patterns, which is your TCM diagnosis.
Reviewing your health history is important in TCM because it is not a symptom based approach to healthcare. In Western medicine you might see an ENT for your sinus issues, a gastroenterologist for your digestive problems, and a chiropractor for your back pain. But an East Asian medicine practitioner can find connections to all three problems, even if you’re only coming in to treat one of them. Knowing what’s going on in all systems of your body is important to be able to start to see the patterns in your body.
According to TCM our qi and blood flows through the body via 12 meridian systems. Each meridian is named after a different organ in the body and has different functions according to TCM. Pulse diagnosis is used to feel the vitality of all 12 meridians. This tells us where your root imbalances are occurring and which channel systems your body is asking to have treated in that moment. Sometimes the pulses are similar week to week, but the pulse changes quickly (even with the insertion of one needle!), so the core of your acupuncture treatment may change each time you come in.
The six yin organs, which are the nourishing aspects of the body, are mapped out on the tongue. Tongue diagnosis is used to get a visual representation of what the body needs at its deepest level and is often used to guide herbal and nutrition recommendations. When looking at your tongue, your practitioner is looking at the shape, texture, color, coat, and the quality of your sublingual veins. The tongue takes longer to change, so your practitioner may or may not check it in each visit. Some schools of acupuncture also look at the color and quality of the eyes to assess the vitality of the six yin organs as they are also mapped out in the eyes.
In addition to our 12 main meridians, we also have 8 extra meridians that borrow points from the main channels. Abdominal palpation is sometimes used to assess which of these extra meridians are out of balance. Tenderness or tightness felt in specific areas of the abdomen correlate with different extra meridians needing to be treated. Once appropriately treated, any abdominal pain felt will immediately dissipate. It’s like magic!
Lastly, palpation techniques of the body itself are sometimes used to look for structural imbalances in the body. This helps to determine whether additional modalities would be helpful in your session. There are multiple modalities that can be incorporated into your acupuncture treatment depending on what your body needs. To learn more about the different techniques that are used in our office, click here.
Some of all of these diagnostic techniques may be used in your acupuncture visit. When they are all put together then a very clear picture of the patterns in your body can be seen. This helps guide your treatment plan so you get a whole body approach to healthcare.