2/22/15

What It Means to Feel Your Pulse Everywhere

“Feeling of the pulse at different locations in the body can be completely normal,” says Chester M. Hedgepeth, III, MD, PhD, Executive Chief of Cardiology at Care New England.

“Importantly, all the arteries in the heart conduct the pulse wave started in the heart.  Pulses can be felt in the large arteries of the neck (carotid artery) and leg (femoral artery).  Normal pulses can also be felt in the wrist (radial artery), temple (temporal artery) and even the stomach with deep palpation (aorta).”

The aorta is the body’s largest blood vessel, originating from the heart and extending down the abdomen where it eventually branches off into the femoral arteries that supply the legs with oxygenated blood. 

“Patients frequently describe feeling their palpitations [pulse] in different parts of the body,” says Dr. Hedgepeth.  “PVCs are commonly associated with this sensation, as they cause a premature firing of the heart’s electrical system; many patients feel a skipped and ‘heavy’ beat because the heart is ejecting significantly more blood volume.  This ‘heavy’ beat can often be felt in the temple, head or neck.”

In summary, there is nothing to be alarmed about if you feel your pulse anywhere or “everywhere” on your body. Think of your arteries as conduits, kind of like if you were to place your hand on a metal water pipe inside your bedroom wall and feel it vibrating, but the source of the vibrating is a water generator down the street.

Pain in Chest when Leaning Forward & Backward

A cardiologist explains the possible causes of chest pain when you lean forward and backward.

“Pain in the chest with leaning forward or backward is a symptom commonly associated with pericarditis,” says Chester M. Hedgepeth, III, MD, PhD, Executive Chief of Cardiology at Care New England.

“Pericarditis is an inflammation of the thin, protective membrane that surrounds the heart, and keeps it in its proper anatomic location. Inflammation of this membrane may cause chest pain.” 

Dr. Hedgepeth says that “the inflammation in the lining around the heart could be related to a recent heart attack.  Heart attacks can lead to an immune response that causes inflammation in the pericardial sac.  You may hear your doctor refer to this type of post-heart attack pericarditis as Dressler’s syndrome.”

What if you haven’t had a heart attack yet are experiencing chest pain or discomfort (or a dull ache) when you lean forward and backward? There are many possible non-cardiac causes.

“More commonly, this inflammation [periocarditis] is related to infection (virus, rheumatic fever or tuberculosis), cancers (lung, breast, renal cell cancer, Hodgkin's disease and lymphoma), immune diseases such as lupus, recent radiation therapy to the chest area, or certain drugs.  Recent chest wall trauma, musculoskeletal injury and herpes zoster should all be ruled out.”  

Always Feeling Heartbeat in Chest: Benign or Serious?

A cardiologist explains what it means to often feel your heartbeat in your chest.

This doesn’t refer to feeling your heart beating in your chest after you just did 20 squat jumps or ran hard on a treadmill. This is about when this occurs in the absence of physical exertion—and anxiety, of course, which could really get the heart thumping good.

“Patients will commonly describe an abnormal sensation of feeling their heartbeat in the chest or an unpleasant awareness of your own heartbeat,” says Chester M. Hedgepeth, III, MD, PhD, Executive Chief of Cardiology at Care New England.

“This can be quite distracting.  Fortunately, this is usually a benign finding.  This sensation can be due to either forceful beating of the heart or due to increase in the heart rate (greater than 100 bpm while sitting still).” 

Causes of Feeling Your Heart in Your Chest
Remember, that’s where this organ is located. Dr. Hedgepeth explains, “Forceful beating of the heart and/or increased heart rates leading to palpitations may be caused by anxiety, stress, panic attack or fear.

“Increased caffeine, nicotine levels or other stimulant use (e.g., diet pills, amphetamines, cocaine) are also associated with these types of palpitations.” The so-called energy drinks can also produce this effect.

“Recent exercise and fever are common causes.  Patients who might be dehydrated for any reason will often describe these types of symptoms.”

Fill up on more water and less of the energy drinks. Cut back on caffeine; replace the diet pills with portion control and more exercise. Then see what happens.

If you feel your heart beating in your chest, this doesn’t necessarily mean you’re feeling palpitations or PVCs. In fact, the beating may be quite steady and even-paced. No fluttering, but instead, just that strong awareness or sensation of a beating heart. The rate, even, may not even be sped up.

If you’re seeking information on PVCs and palpitations/fluttering, search these terms in the search box in the upper right of any page on this site.

When Bed Elevation Won’t Prevent Acid Reflux

“My bed is elevated and I STILL get acid reflux overnight! Help!” Does this describe you?

“Acid reflux is when the normal stomach acid regurgitates up into the esophagus,” notes Jay Desai, MD. Dr. Desai specializes in colonoscopy, upper endoscopy and consultative gastroenterology at New York Gastroenterology Associates in NYC, NY. He is available for same day appointments in their Upper East Side office.

“The muscles at the bottom of the esophagus are meant to act as a valve to hold down acid, but in many people,” continues Dr. Desai, “this valve does not function properly. When people lie down at night, gravity is no longer helping keep the acid down in the stomach, so there is often worsening symptoms in this position.

“Frequently patients have just eaten dinner, and the food creates pressure which forces acid into the esophagus. Raising your head in bed is a good way to help gravity minimize this process.

“One reason this doesn’t work in some patients is because they just elevate their neck and head (with pillows). For this technique to work, the whole chest needs to be elevated, usually with the help of a bed wedge device.”

The bed wedge devices create an elevation of six to eight inches, and unlike regular pillows or cushions, will not lose their shape or form over time.