CWM does not regard patient symptoms or syndromes as totally reliable for diagnosis, and favors the solid evidence of instrument or lab analysis. TCM closely regards the symptoms or syndromes, because it values the unique human ability to report special feelings. TCM’s diagnosis reflects the current dynamic situation. So, while CWM acquires solid evidence of an illness and provides help toward treatment, CWM’s solid, fixed tests indicate an illness stage and structural damage, but may have no direct or dynamic links to the patient’s current physical feelings.
Chinese diagnosis tries to detect early abnormal images and symptoms at the intangible energy level, which are more useful for early diagnosis and preventive medicine. By concentrating on subtle abnormal symptoms of the body’s intangible system, TCM can detect a health problem much earlier than medical instruments which can detect tangible pathogens.
A recent survey by the World Health Organization has indicated that about 20% of the urban population in some countries is infected with various diagnosable diseases while only 5% of the population is healthy. 75% of the urban population is suffering from sub-health (“sub-clinical state”). Western medicine has used the ambiguous term “sub-health” to refer to a patient who does not feel well but has not been diagnosed with a disease. The sub-healthy have already experienced certain abnormal chemical and physical changes. These very subtle, complex changes have not reached Western medicine’s diagnosis standard for disease. However, over 10 million people worldwide die of sub-health or karoshi (death from overwork) each year. Billions suffer from physical and mental pains or discomforts, but are regarded by CWM as having no medical problem. TCM could diagnose the sub-healthy and provide suitable treatment.
Both Eastern and Western medicine are useful for human health. In recent years, TCM has introduced modern scientific instruments to further research and apply diagnosis. The objectivity of scientific instruments has been applied to assist diagnostic tongue inspection, pulse-taking, and other aspects and mechanisms. For example, the sphygmograph is used to draw pulse pictures and blood dynamic data, and technically advanced microcirculation devices are used to help study tongue pictures. These developments may scientifically augment the basic principle, because they combine reductionism and holism by utilizing powerful technology to study the super complicated macroscopic system of the human body.
Recognition or non-recognition of diagnosis based on signs or symptoms distinguishes true TCM (as opposed to TCM practitioners who neglect TCM theory and rely on CWM diagnosis). Still, progress may inevitably contribute to generating new concepts of TCM.