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Traditional Chinese Medical Diagnosis

When seeing a traditional Chinese doctor, they have a diagnostic process like the procedure of Western Physician. The diagnosis process includes 4 procedures that work together:

1. INSPECTION: First, the Chinese doctor will finish a visual examination of the patient, which includes observation of the patient's facial expression, emotions, muscle tone, color and condition of the skin, body odors, posture, energy levels, and overall appearance. After LISTENING and ASKING questions, the doctor will ask the patient to stick out the tongue and analyze the color, the dampness, size, form, and tongue coating. The doctor can tell some information from the tongue, combining the result of the interview to see if there's a presence of a febrile, or feverish, disease.

2. LISTENING: Diagnosis usually begins with the patient's description of his/her complaint. As the patient talks about how he/she feels, the doctor listens while doing the visual inspection, and jots down any notes when necessary.

3. ASKING: After LISTENING, normally the doctor will ask questions regarding the body function, like bowel movements, digestion, perspiration, respiration, dietary habits.  Through the inspection and the interview the doctor will develop an imbalance picture of the patient: which organ may be functioning in excess or may be deficient;, the state of the blood and of vital energy, and figure out what to correct to restore health.

4. PALPATION: There are two approaches for palpation. One is a typical touch examination like Western medicine, palpation any areas on the body that may feel painful or appear swollen to check the sensitivity. This tells information about whether the problem is superficial or deeper involving internal organs. The other form of palpation takes a lot of skill and sensitivity, which is known as "taking pulse" "checking pulse" or  "reading pulse". The doctor take the pulse to confirm or adjust diagnosis. The pulse is taken at six positions on each wrists. Of these 12 positions, each corresponds to one of the internal organs and shown by its nature the state of that particular organ. The doctor characterize the pulse in general, as well as individual organs. The qualities of the pulse determine the treatments. There are 120 forms and 28 commonly distinguished forms. With three predominant pairs of characteristics: floating or deep; slow or rapid; weak or surging.

After the doctor refined the diagnosis and determined the nature of the disease, the doctor will develop a treatment plan, and write a prescription. Most prescriptions consist of 5-20 herbal ingredients, combination customized for the patient's particular needs. Acupuncturists normally do the above same things, except a period of time arranged especially for acupuncture.

(sources: Streetwise Guide: Chinese Herbal Medicine by Wong Kang Ying and Martha Dahle, Chinese Herbal Medicine made easy by Thomas Richard Joiner.)