What the hell is a pulse?

What is a pulse, and why can I only feel it in certain places? None of the arteries in my arm seem to be pulsating when I look at them, and I can only feel it near my wrist, but i can’t see it. Also one in my neck, and one in my crotch(although thats more of a throb than a pulse :smiley: )

A pulse is the pressure applied to your artery walls when the heart pumps the blood through the arteries. As the heart “beats” it actually pumps the blood through the arteries, pushing the blood through.

There are several places on the body you can feel your pulse, including your neck, arm, leg, groin, ankle, foot and others. Generally, the reason you can feel them in these places is because in these places, the artery is close to the surface of your skin.

Zev Steinhardt

Your pulse is the repeated surge in pressure in your arteries caused by your heartbeat. this pressure causes the artery to expand slightly. This is what you are feeling. You can only feel it in certain places because only at those areas is an artery close enough to the surface for you to feel it. The one in your wrist is the brachial artery, the one in your neck is the carotid artery, and the one in your leg near the crotch is the femoral artery.

The pulse in human blood is basically a pressure wave, orientated in the direction of travel, which forms as a consequence of contractions of the ventricles - basically, the chambers in the heart.

The pressure wave itself is quite constrained by the flexible artery walls.

I would be surprised if you really could see your own arteries - let alone the pulse in them - as they tend to be located deep in soft tissue.

You’re probably thinking of veins, which are carrying de-oxygentaed blood back to the heart. The pressure wave has dissipated by the time blood eraches the veins, and is usually pumped back by contractions from mucle tissue. You can actually see this sometimes, but only very faintly.

Generally, you can only feel the pulse where an artery runs over a bony area.

It’s your blood moving through your arteries. When the heart contracts (beats), it pumps a (relatively) large amount of blood into your arteries in a short amount of time. This causes a surge in speed/pressure that causes the artery to briefly expand, and the expansion can be felt in the areas where arteries are near the surface. The places you mentioned are all such places.

Wow, a quadruple simulpost. Nice work there!

Maybe surprising, but true. I can easily see the pulse in my wrist at the same place where it’s palpable. I’m not seeing the artery itself, though, just the surface of my skin moving whenever it pulses.

Incidentally, you can also feel a weak pulse in your own thumb. This is why you should use another finger to check the pulse of another person, so you don’t get the wrong signal.

So, if I added that a pulse is the edile seed of a legume, (such as a pea or a lentil), I’d probably not be carrying forward the discussion?

[nitpick] The one in your wrist is either your radial (on the thumb side) ot ulnar (on your pinky side). Both are branches of the brachial artery, though which is in your upper arm and is the artery that’s measured when your blood pressure is taken [/nitpick]

what is it that decides what direction blood should be pumping through you? And does it matter if you were born with blood pumping the opposite direction to everyone else? Or is it all just outward from the heart no matter what?

(I think it circulates, though, so my question may have merit).

Forgive my biological ignorance.

I think that ultimately the direction of pumping blood is determined by the “plumbing” inside your heart and the structure of your heart valves, which force the blood to flow in a certain direction when the chambers of the heart contract. Is that what you meant?

Veins also contain valves, which force the direction of flow.

The reason that you can feel a pulse in certain places is because you can trap the artery against something firm like a bone. All arteries have a pulse, but you can’t detect most of them with your finger.

Note: It is possible to see the pulse in various places. In the right light, sometimes the pulse of the artery ust anterior to the achilles tendon is visible, as is a pulse in the wrist when the wriist is slightly superextended and again, the lighting is correct.

On some folks, the carotid pulse in the neck can be visually detected, and one in the temple also…but this takes a skinny person and some unsual conditions.

sunstone, the visible pulse in the neck is from the jugular vein, not the carotid artery.
venous pulses are visible, but not palpable.

interesting other pulse point to try and locate.
find your umbilicus (so far, so good), go about an inch over to your left, press hard.
that’s the pulse of your abdominal aorta.

Guano lad, the heart is arranged as a pump, pressure differences force blood OUT of certain chambers, and IN to other ones.

if your heart is back to front, or there are holes between the chambers ther will be some problems.

something like one in 20 000 people has a condition called complete situs inversus. in this case all the organs that should be on the right side, are on the left. like a mirror image. they have no ill effects.

the more commmon partial inversus cases have problems because “something” is on the wrong side and “everything else” is plumbed in right.

the circulation of blood in the body is pretty complex, but the system of tubes to do it are relatively constant in size and position in people.

which is a bummer, because i have to learn them all.

for instance, the coomn carotid artery bifurcates into the internal and external carotids.
the internal carotid enters the skull through the foramen lacerum and gives off branches to supply the brain and forehead.
the external carotid artery gives off the following branches in the neck and face:

ascending pharyngeal
superior thyroid
posterior auricular
superficial temporal
tranverse facial

they then branch into smaller vessels, and finally join up (anastomose) with veins.

can you tell i have an anatomy exam on monday?

Good luck on your exam, irishgirl! :slight_smile:

Yay! Excellent response irishgirl, I imagine you’ll breeze it!

Thanks for the answer, irishgirl and folks!

The reason I asked, was because I was going to answer the OP with the fact that QED just mentioned, which is that veins have valves, and they are what you can feel in a pulse; as the blood pushes past the valve and stops at every beat, the valve opens and closes, causing a pronounced measurable motion.

My mother has had medical training (as a Nurse) and she told me that once. Or something like it.

But the responses given to the OP made me wonder if I wasn’t right, hence my question.