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What to expect in a visit with a Doctor of Tibetan Medicine

Wondering what to expect in a consultation with a Doctor of Tibetan Medicine?  There is a short and a long answer to that question.

The (Very) Short Answer

The short answer is that a doctor will ask a patient a series of questions about their ailment and their overall lifestyle, examine the patients urine, tongue, pulse, and other parts of the patients body.  The information gleaned from this process will inform the doctors diagnosis and lead to the second part of the visit, the treatment.  Most visits a doctor will give a patient dietary and lifestyle advice, and, if this is insufficient, will prescribe internal medicines and external therapies such as moxabustion, massage, compresses, and so on where appropriate.  A follow-up appointment would then be scheduled and the process would be repeated.

The Long Answer

Visits to Doctors of Tibetan Medicine can be broken down into three main phases: patient and doctor preparations, diagnosing the patient’s condition, and prescribing and performing treatments.    Since both patient preparations, which are discussed on the page “What should I do to prepare for a consultation?”, and doctor preparations occur prior to the visit itself we will turn our attention here to the latter two: diagnosis and treatment.


In the traditional presentation there are three principle diagnostic techniques utilized by doctors to accurately diagnose a patient:

In the traditional training for doctors the above three approaches are described in terms of their objects of observation.  We’ll now discuss these specific approaches in terms of their respective objects.

མིག་གིས་བལྟ་བ “Looking with the eyes”

The two principal objects a doctor will visually examine are the patient’s urine (see  “What should I do to prepare for a consultation?” for guidelines on providing a urine sample) and a patient’s tongue.  The doctor will also examine a patient’s overall physical build, eyes, and posture.  If there is a specific area of the body where a problem is occurring the doctor may also examine that area.

སོར་མོས་རེག་པ “Touching with the fingers”

One of the most unique aspects of the diagnostic process is also the principal object of observation employing touch: examining the patient’s pulse.  Through using three fingers to examine the pulse at both of the patient’s wrists, a skillful Doctor of Tibetan Medicine is able to observe disorders and imbalances affecting different internal organs in the body.  Other objects of tactile observation include a patient’s skin, various pressure points on the body also related to internal organs, and any area where there might be a problem known to the patient.

ངག་གིས་དྲི་བ “Questioning with the voice”

While traditionally listed last, questioning is, in fact, the most important of the three diagnostic methods.  Beginning with “What seems to be troubling you today?”, and continuing throughout the visit, a patient will be quizzed about many aspects of their ailment, their diet, daily activities, and so on.  The other diagnostic methods are used primarily to confirm a diagnosis based on questions previously asked, or to provoke more questions in the effort of narrowing down the ailment affecting the patient.  Please refer to the page, “What should I do to prepare for a consultation?”, for tips of things to pay attention to prior to visiting a Doctor of Tibetan Medicine.


Info coming soon