An acupuncturist will decide through a diagnostic procedure of observation and questions to the patient which points of the body to treat. In traditional Chinese medicine there are four methods of diagnosing a patient. The four methods are olfaction, palpation, auscultation and inspection.
Inspection will focus on the facial areas, principally on the tongue size, shape, tension, color and coating. The inspection will include looking for the presence or absence of teeth marks around the edges of the tongue.
Olfaction and Auscultation refer to the acupuncturist listening for specific sounds like wheezing and taking note of the body odor of the patient.
Inquiring by the practitioner focuses on the method of seven inquiries, chills and fever, perspiration, appetite or loss thereof and taste, defecation and urination, sleep, pain, and menses.
Acupuncturists use palpation to find the tender or ashi points. Palpation of left and right radial pulses at two levels of pressure, topical and deep pressures: and then the three positions of Cun, Guan, and Chi. Additional diagnostic techniques are used in different forms of acupuncture. Japanese acupuncturists and classical Chinese acupuncture palpate the muscles of the abdomen to create a diagnosis along with the other techniques described earlier.
Moxibustion is the combination of herbs used in a burner to create aromatic fragrances and cleansing to the body. Though this is a different treatment than acupuncture, it is used as a supplement to acupuncture.
In modern times, acupuncturists are allowed to practice herbal medicine and manipulative therapy. Licensing of acupuncturists is state or province regulated and often mandates passage of board exams.
Western medicine disciplines are recognizing the benefits and detriments of acupuncture and more practitioners ply the methods to their patients. In the US many acupuncturists are required to hold a Master’s Degree in medicine and non-traditional (non-Western) disciplines as well.