Chinese diagnostic methods
The most distinguishing feature of Chinese medicine is its diagnosis process. The process is similar to a detective solving a mystery case. The doctor must accumulate the information regarding all of the patient’s symptoms, and then use the information to diagnose the patient using the Zan and Fu logic explained earlier.
observe (望 wàng), smell (聞 wén), ask about background (問 wèn) and touching (切 qiè) are the 4 main diagnostic methods used by Chinese medicine practitioners. Out of the 4 methods, observation of the patient is the most important one. An experienced Chinese doctor can analyze a patient’s health condition through looking at the patient’s body shape, hair, face shape, facial features, and skin color.
For example, a person that enjoys cold beverages often times will have fat deposits underneath the eye area. The area underneath the eye is the starting point of the stomach meridian. When a person rapidly drinks a cold beverage, the stomach meridian will be damaged, causing the corresponding stomach meridian areas near the eye to gradually swell up. An experienced Chinese doctor will be able to recognize these appearance traits and use the information towards the diagnosis.
From looking at a person’s appearance, a good Chinese doctor can have a general idea on the body energy level of the patient, as well as the conditions of the patient’s meridians. A thin person whose face is darker than the rest of his body is often a sign of low body energy. A fat person will most likely have a clogged pericardium meridian. Sometimes, a Chinese doctor can even determine the conditions of the patient’s parents. For example, a person with thick dark brows is usually fast tempered, and such temper can also be found in his father. Usually a good Chinese doctor can diagnose 70-80% of a patient’s ailment through looking at the patient’s appearance alone.
The second diagnostic method, the smell method is also an essential method in Chinese medicine diagnosis. Patients that suffer from similar disease will share some similar smells. For example, bad breath is common amongst patients with stomach ulcer. People that suffer from kidney diseases will transpire a certain odor. Such odor is especially noticeable amongst patients that are undertaking dialysis. A good Chinese doctor will have the ability to distinguish different types of odors from his patients and use the information towards his diagnosis.
The third method involves getting an in-depth background search on the patients’ medical history, family history, personal life, and sometimes information about the patient’s character nature. The third method is conducted after the first 2 methods as it acts as a confirmation of the information derived from the first 2 methods.
Finally, the touching technique is perhaps the most unique diagnostic method in Chinese medicine. Chinese doctors use 3 fingers and place them on the wrist of the patient to feel the pulse of the patient. This is also the most difficult method for Chinese doctors to master and often takes years of experience and training. A good Chinese doctor can recognize several dozens of different pulse patterns. Through these patterns, a doctor can gauge the patient’s present condition and sometimes even detect illnesses that have not yet recognized by the patient. In ancient times when there were no medical diagnostic equipment, pulse diagnosis is one of the best methods of gathering information on the patient’s body. Even today with our advanced equipment, there are certain illnesses that the pulse diagnosis excels over other diagnostic methods.
For example, in the detection of pericardial effusion, which is the abnormal accumulation of fluid in the pericardial cavity, the pulse diagnosis can easily detect such illness. The pulse pattern of a patient suffering from pericardial effusion can be easily recognized even by an amateur Chinese medicine practitioner. Using present day technology, it is difficult to diagnose a patient with pericardial effusion. Due to the difference in the size of the heart amongst different people, the amount of fluid in the pericardial cavity also varies. Usually pericardial effusion is detected after the patient feels discomfort, which means that the fluid has already affected the function of the heart. With pulse diagnosis, when a patient’s pulse pattern shows sign of weakness, the doctor can already predict with good accuracy that the patient has abundance in pericardial fluid. In other words, pericardial effusion can be detected earlier with the pulse diagnosis method.
Using the pulse diagnosis method, most overweight people will be diagnosed with different level of pericardial effusion. Sometimes before a person becomes overweight, signs of pericardial effusion can already be detected. However, compare with modern medicine, only a small portion of these people will be actually diagnosed with pericardial effusion, with most diagnosis coming after the patients felt discomfort. Moreover, with pulse diagnosis, the cause and effect relationship between obesity and heart illness can be reversed. Modern medicine can only detect pericardial effusion amongst a small number of patients that also have overweight problems. Thus, such diagnosis leads to the conclusion that “Obesity is one of the causes of pericardial effusion.