How does TCM Diagnostics work?

Traditional Chinese Medicine diagnostics is a study of the theories, methods and techniques of diagnosis based on a rich substantial content gained form centuries of experience. A doctor assesses a person's symptoms, and state of health, by collecting and analyzing clinical information on the basis of diagnostic methods.

The internal is related with the external, and the exterior with the interior. Pathological changes inside the human body are reflected externally as abnormalities of the complexion, spirit, appearance of the tongue, and pulse. TCM physicians refer to this as "determining the internal disturbance by observing external signs."

Over the centuries, TCM physicians determined that if pathological changes occur in the organs or any part of the body, a tender point would appear in the corresponding acupuncture pressure point. If the tender point can be discovered by pressing, it can be inferred which internal organ or part of the body has undergone pathological changes.

To understand this holistic approach, one should first review the fundamental basis of TCM diagnosis:

  1. Attention is paid to the interrelation and interaction between local pathological changes and maladjustments of the body. Local pathological changes affecting the whole body are likely to be reflected in another part. While external diseases may penetrate the interior, diseases of the organs may have external manifestations.
  2. The doctor observes the patient in the context of his or her surroundings. When changes occur in the weather or environment, and the human body fails to adapt to these changes, pathological changes are likely to occur.

Most modern Western doctors identify a disease based on the signs, symptoms, and clinical evaluation of a patient. The TCM physician uses a slightly different approach. He identifies a syndrome, which is usually a complex pattern of indicators and symptoms that manifest at a given stage of the disease. Syndrome identification is the premise and foundation of TCM treatment. Usually a TCM practitioner will diagnose both a disease and the syndrome. The name of a disease suggests its entire course of pathological changes whereas the name of a syndrome reflects the pathology of a disease at a certain stage. A well trained TCM physician may use both their understanding of the course of a particular disease, followed by the differentiation and diagnosis of syndromes, when prescribing treatment.