On Japanese Meridian Therapy and Pulse Diagnosis

By Julia MacGlashan, L.Ac

Acupuncture in Japan was originally a profession for the blind, which is why Japanese Meridian Therapy (JMT) relies primarily on the sense of touch.  Subtle differences in your pulses and acupuncture meridians provide a wealth of information about what’s going on in your body. Whether you come to the clinic for prematurely graying hair or toe pain, all symptoms arise from substances in the body (qi, blood, fluids) being either weak or stuck.  Ideally everything is supposed to flow like a river. But if you have cold hands and feet, it could mean that the blood in your body is too weak to provide that strong current necessary to fill all the branches, i.e. your fingers and toes. Or, there could be something in the way, blocking the river’s free flow.

In order to determine where substances are weak or stuck, JMT uses a unique pulse diagnostic system. When I feel your pulses, you’ll notice me moving my fingers around a lot, like I’m using your wrists as a piano. I begin by feeling for overall qualities: depth (floating or sunken), strength (deficient or excess), speed (rapid or slow), and quality (slippery, rough, wiry, or tight). Then to get more specific, there’s an individual position in your pulses for each of your 12 main acupuncture meridians and their corresponding organs. Using this pulse information, I can then select acupuncture points to correct the imbalances in your body.

JMT emphasizes treating the root of a problem first, with the understanding that once you correct the root, the rest of the body can work better to regulate itself.  This means that a lot of the “superficial gunk” is cleared out of your system, so I can focus on what’s important, and not on fixing what your body can fix on its own.  So I start by treating your body’s weakest points, and then voila, things aren’t as stuck anymore. We filled up that river and now it can flow around the boulder, or even wear it down or move it out of the way.

Remembering that Japanese acupuncturists were historically blind, I use palpation to find each acupuncture point, treating points that feel weak or stuck, based on what I felt in the pulses.  I often look for divots along the meridians, spots where your finger seems to sink in a little bit. Those spots need to be “filled up”. Areas that are hard or sensitive when I push on them are often a bit “stuck” and need to be redistributed.  Acupuncture points are a part of your living body, so they can move and change all the time. The point location might shift slightly from one week to the next, and with treatment they’ll start to improve and feel less weak or stuck.

What I love about using a touch-based system is that because the selected points are so specific to your individual body, JMT can utilize more gentle needling techniques.  I don’t need a lot of strong stimulation, because I’ve identified that perfect spot to break open the dam and get things moving. This allows JMT treatments to feel simultaneously simple and powerful.   It’s how I prefer to receive acupuncture, so that’s how I prefer to treat others.

You’ll notice that I always feel the pulses at the beginning AND end of a treatment.  That’s because the pulses give me instant feedback on how your body responded to a treatment.  At the end of your session, your pulses should feel overall more moderate (stronger if they felt weak, softer if they felt wiry, etc).  I’m very stubborn and like your pulses to feel nice, so that might mean you receive just one more acupuncture point to finish balancing everything before you walk out the door.  Happy pulses, happy human!

I’m available for community and private acupuncture appointments on Mondays and Thursdays. I hope to see you all in the new year!