Why is your pulse important to an Acupuncturist?

When you come in for an acupuncture treatment (I say ‘when’ rather than ‘if’ because it’s only a matter of time before everyone wants some of this good needle lovin’), one of the things your acupuncturist will do is take your pulse on both wrists. When we’re feeling your pulse, we may look like we’re deep in thought, or prayer, or like we’re spacing out and staring at the ceiling, or like we’re listening to a really good song. We do, in fact, sometimes move our fingers as if we’re playing your wrist like a flute or a recorder. We may start joking with you or ask you crazy questions like “How creatively frustrated have you been lately?”.

Why? What are we sensing?

When you go to a nurse or doctor who feels your pulse, usually they are counting the beats to measure the speed of your pulse to determine whether your heart rate is fast or slow. We do pay attention to the rate too… and so much more.

On the inside of each wrist, we are feeling for 3 different locations at a minimum of 2 depths, so a total of 6 positions on each wrist. Each position tells us something about a specific meridian, or pathway of Qi (energy), flowing through your body. And each meridian is also connected to each of your major internal organs. We’re feeling for how each position feels under our fingertip. Sometimes the pulse will feel tight and constricted, or loose and gloppy, or really low and soft, or really strong and bounding, or sometimes veering off diagonally across your arm. There are dozens of qualities that can be felt on the pulse. These qualities inform us of which meridians and which organs could use some support, and what type of support they need, and therefore, which points on those meridians could use a needle.

The pulses change constantly because our Qi is always changing subtly, so we may feel your pulse before, during, and after treatment, and we may feel your pulse as you’re talking about something specific to see how your body responds to the mention of certain words or thoughts.

It’s really amazing how our bodies are always adjusting and responding to the world around us. One thing you can do to help your pulses – and your whole body – be a little smoother is to take a deep belly breath. More on breathing in this blog here.

Next time you come in for treatment, feel free to ask us how your pulses feel that day; we can paint a fun word picture for you. If you haven’t come in yet, here are some reasons you may not have known about to try acupuncture.

Note: If you happen to be missing your wrists, never fear! We can take your pulse elsewhere, like down at your ankle or near another major artery!


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