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TCM Diagnostics

Traditional Chinese Medicine diagnostics is a study of diagnosis theories, methodologies, and techniques based on millennia of experience. The physician evaluates a person's symptoms and health by gathering and interpreting clinical data using diagnostic tools of observation, listening, questioning, and pulse analysis to determine the root cause.

TCM emphasizes both analysis of the interior and exterior manifestations. The interior is linked to the exterior, and the exterior is related to the interior. Pathological changes in the human body manifest as irregularities in the complexion, spirit, tongue appearance, and pulse. We will now analyse the Four Pillars of Diagnostics individually.

Looking (望)involves the following aspects. The physician examines the patient’s body, which includes:

  1. Spirit 神 (Eyes, Mood, Reaction, Movement

  2. Colour 色 (Facial hue, Brightness)

  3. Posture 形 (Body shape and Posture)

  4. Behaviour 态 (Energetic or Docile)

  5. Tongue 舌

Some common manifestations on the tongue can be seen in Figure 1 below.

Figure 1: Common manifestations of the tongue

Hearing and smelling(闻) involve listening to the voice, tone, and sound of respiration or coughing; detect the smell of body odours, excretions, and secretions.

Asking (问) aims to enquire about the primary concerns or complaints and some common questions asked by physicians may include the following:

  1. Course of illness

  2. Past medical history or surgery

  3. Family predisposition to diseases (eg: Genetics, hereditary)

  4. Drug allergies

Pulse analysis(切) involves pressing on specific regions of the body such as the skin, muscles, acupoints, limbs, chest, abdomen, and other locations to feel and evaluate the pulse. Figure 2 below illustrates the common method of pulse taking by physicians.

Figure 2: Method of pulse analysis

With the information gained from the Four Pillars of Diagnosis, the physician then evaluates the information and decides on a holistic disease treatment approach tailored to individual patient needs.



Chester Ng

Chong Hoe Healthcare


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