Have you ever noticed your pulse in certain parts of your body but not others? For instance, it’s possible to sometimes feel your heartbeat in your stomach – and usually, that’s completely normal.
Let’s explore why you can feel your heartbeat in places other than your chest.
The Body’s Pulse Points
When your heart pumps, your body’s arteries expand and contract. That’s your pulse.
Your pulse is used to determine your heart rate, or the number of times your heart beats per minute. When a healthcare provider checks your pulse, they may also gauge the rhythm and strength of your heartbeat and whether the blood vessel feels hard or soft.
The spots where you can detect your pulse are called pulse points. There are a number of them in your body. Here are a few common ones:
- Temporal artery: On the temple in front of your ear
- Carotid artery: On either side of your neck
- Brachial artery: On your upper arm, near the elbow
- Radial and ulnar arteries: On your wrist
- Femoral artery: In the inner thigh
- Popliteal artery: Above the knee, located by holding a bent knee
- Dorsalis pedis artery: On top of the foot
- Posterior tibial artery: On the inside of the ankle
You can feel a pulse in these spots because an artery is running close to the skin and being compressed by a hard structure below. That’s why your pulse is often taken at your wrist or neck.
How to Check Your Pulse
If you’ve never tried, it’s easy to check your own pulse. Here are three simple steps to take your carotid pulse:
- Take your index and middle fingers and gently press into the soft groove on either side of your neck, near your windpipe.
- Using a watch or the stopwatch on your smartphone, count the number of beats you feel in 30 seconds.
- Double that number.
A normal resting pulse for adults is between 60 and 100 beats per minute. Your pulse should also feel steady with a regular gap between each beat. If it feels like a beat was skipped or there was an extra beat, that’s common and usually harmless. Talk to your doctor about any irregularities.
Feeling Your Heartbeat in Your Stomach
It’s normal to feel your pulse in your stomach. What you’re picking up on is your pulse in your abdominal aorta. The aorta is the main artery that carries blood from the heart to the rest of the body. It runs from your heart, down the center of your chest, and into your abdomen.
You’re more likely to feel your pulse in your stomach in three scenarios:
- During/after eating
- While lying down
- During pregnancy
When you eat, your heart pumps extra blood to your stomach and small intestine through your aorta. This helps with digesting food and absorbing its nutrients. That temporary surge can create a more pronounced pulse in your stomach.
You might also feel it if you lie down and raise your knees. And if you don’t have much abdominal fat, you may even see your stomach pulse.
During pregnancy, the amount of blood circulating around the body increases significantly. More blood is pumped with each heartbeat, making the pulse in the abdominal aorta more noticeable.
In rare cases, picking up on your pulse in your stomach can be a sign of something serious. Always seek prompt medical attention if you have symptoms that come on suddenly, including pain in your abdomen, side or back. This is especially important if you have:
- A blood vessel disease
- High blood pressure
- A history of aortic infections
- A family history of abdominal aortic aneurysms
- A recent traumatic injury