In TCM, there are four diagnostic methods: inspection, auscultation, inquiry, and palpation.
Tongue and pulse
Examination of the tongue and the pulse are among the principal diagnostic methods in TCM. Certain sectors of the tongue’s surface are believed to correspond to the zàng-fŭ，which constitute the centre piece of TCM’s systematization of bodily functions. For example, teeth marks on one part of the tongue might indicate a problem with the Heart, while teeth marks on another part of the tongue might indicate a problem with the Liver.
Pulse palpation involves measuring the pulse both at a superficial and at a deep level at three different locations on the radial artery (Cun, Guan, Chi, located two fingerbreadths from the wrist crease, one fingerbreadth from the wrist crease, and right at the wrist crease, respectively, usually palpated with the index, middle and ring finger) of each arm, for a total of twelve pulses, all of which are thought to correspond with certain zàng-fŭ. The pulse is examined for several characteristics including rhythm, strength and volume, and described with qualities like “floating, slippery, bolstering- like, feeble, thready and quick”; each of these qualities indicate certain disease patterns.
Learning TCM pulse diagnosis can take several years.