WHAT is Superior to Pulse Diagnosis? 5/5 (41)

Jake Fratkin2Have you been following the TCM -vs- Meridian series?

This is Part 3. If you missed the prior posts, here are the links…click below and catch up!

Dr. Jake Fratkin #1:
They didn’t Teach this in Acupuncture School

Dr. Jake Fratkin #2:
Acupuncture’s Quiet Controversy

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“All health problems, whether due to trauma or organ dysfunction, will manifest as imbalances in the meridian sequence.

Some channels will be excess, while others will be deficient. A person has a set amount of qi, and imbalances that are excess are matched by imbalances that are deficient.Man - Points right side

If we can restore the channels to relative equality, the body will hold the correction, allowing a more lasting effect. In this way, the body can heal itself quickly.

When we add in branch treatment for the main complaint, we are now healing in two different ways, allowing an even stronger healing response

I explain it to patients this way: The energetic network is like a hologram. We want your energetic network to radiate like a soccer ball – energy in the shape of a sphere. When there are imbalances, your network is radiating like a football – torqued and out of equilibrium.

If I can determine the exact pattern of imbalance at the moment, and correct that by adjusting the excess and deficiencies on the channels, then the holographic shape will return to that of a soccer ball instead of a football. Once a correct balance is made, the body tends to hold a balanced network, at least for a while. The patient noticeably feels better; they feel relaxed, they feel uplifted.

They come back again, either weekly, or even once a month, to get their “balance”.

Outside of meridian-sequence qi gong or meridian balance shiatsu massage, no other method can do this for a person.

Diagnosis: Pulse or Meridian?

When I returned to Meridian Therapy, after an interlude with TCM, I saw that patients got better in half as many treatments. But this was not due to discarding TCM; it was due to adding in MT. That is to say, I used Meridian Therapy as our root treatment, and added in TCM, or other modalities, as the branch treatment. Currently, for example, I am using Ear Acupuncture as the branch treatment, which complements Meridian Therapy well.

My article to this point has been why I prefer Meridian Therapy to TCM acupuncture. Now our question is how: how to accurately diagnose excesses and deficiencies on the channels. The classical Nan Jing approach of Meridian Therapy survives as Keiraku Chiryo, Japanese Meridian Therapy.

This system was revitalized in the early 1930s in Japan, and continues to this day. In this system, meridian imbalances are determined by radial pulse, with the superficial aspects corresponding to yang channels, and the deeper pulse positions corresponding to yin channels. Relative excesses and weaknesses would be noted, and one of four patterns (sho) would be prioritized for treatment, based on the relative positions. Practitioners are advised to focus on the primary pattern, and not to chase every imbalance.

Jake Fratkin QuoteAfter many years of studying and teaching this classical approach, I have abandoned it for two reasons.

The first reason is due to my exposure to computerized meridian diagnosis, which gives diagnostic information that is more accurate and precise than pulse diagnosis. As importantly, computerized systems such as AcuGraph include software to make the most use of that diagnostic information.

The second reason, the council to “not chase every imbalance,” is wrong.

It is important to make sure that significant excesses and deficiencies in every channel are taken care of.  It is possible to confirm whether fixing every meridian is necessary or not. I say this because, if you prioritize which meridians to start with and put needles in place, secondary imbalances may not need treatment.

Machine diagnosis is not new.

It goes back to the late 1940s as Ryodoraku, developed by Dr. Yoshio Nakatani, where it was discovered that electronic measurements at the fingertips would produce different readings. The readings could compare energetic strengths of the various acupuncture channels, by which treatment could be determined.

Computerized diagnosis went on to receive a lot of interest during the 1980s and 90s in China, Japan and Taiwan, and several devices were made available commercially. As computer technology developed, so did the meridian diagnostic machines.

I purchased my first device in 2004, a machine from Taiwan, and was very impressed with the diagnostic level. The software was useful, graphically displaying the various excesses and deficiencies.

I found that it was much more detailed and precise than pulse diagnosis.

Several years ago I was introduced to the AcuGraph, and I switched over. Both devices gave good diagnostic readouts, based on multiple readings per minute for each diagnostic point/meridian. The AcuGraph, however, has a more sophisticated software support for the diagnostic information, and, important for me, was Mac friendly.

With the AcuGraph it became possible to display the totality of the readings in various formats: arm-leg (“Baseline”), yin-yang, 5 element, the 12 meridian sequence (“Energy Cycle”), and the midnight-midday cycle (“Horary”). It also gives the patient a “PIE” score. PIE is an easy to understand, single number summation of the degree of imbalance taken in consideration with readings of energy level and energy stability.

Most importantly, it makes point selection recommendations.

The objective is to restore equilibrium with treatment options. This can be done with the Basic treatment – (all channels), or Advanced treatment mode, which utilizes points that can treat two or more channels simultaneously. The software also offers terrific reference materials, including branch TCM treatments for common complaints, locations of all of the acupuncture points, and summation charts of TCM treatments. If you are reading this, I am sure you are already familiar with the various features of the AcuGraph software.

For me, computerized diagnosis is far superior to pulse diagnosis, showing all the variations of meridian imbalances as excess or deficiency.

One can use the information as one wishes, whether it be using the software recommendations for detailed treatment, or even to focus on the primary patterns of Keiraku Chiryo.

I have tremendous respect for AcuGraph as a diagnostic and therapeutic tool, and believe that it will facilitate and enhance your acupuncture treatments.

AcuGraph truly allows more patients to benefit from the very real healing offered by Meridian Therapy acupuncture.

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Learn how AcuGraph can help your practice. Click here to view a short video!



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Dr. Jake P. Fratkin, DOM, L.Ac.

Trained in Korean and Japanese acupuncture since 1975, and Chinese herbal medicine since 1982, and has studied and taught qi gong and Yang family Taijiquan since 1974. He is the author of Chinese Herbal Patent Medicines, The Clinical Desk Reference and the editor-organizer of Wu and Fischer’s Practical Therapeutics of Traditional Chinese Medicine. He is currently completing TCM Case Studies in Autoimmune Disease with Dr. Zeng Sheng-ping for People’s Medical Publishing House, Beijing. He is the recipient of Acupuncturist of the Year, 1999, by the AAAOM and Teacher of the Year, 2006, American Association of Teachers of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (AATAOM). Dr. Fratkin lives and practices in Boulder, Colorado.

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