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Bounding Pulse

What is a bounding pulse?

A bounding pulse is a pulse that feels as though your heart is pounding or racing. Your pulse will probably feel strong and powerful if you have a bounding pulse. Your doctor might refer to your bounding pulse as heart palpitations, which is a term used to describe abnormal fluttering or pounding of the heart.

How will I know that my pulse is bounding?

With a bounding pulse, you may feel that your heart is beating faster than normal. You may feel your pulse in the arteries of your neck or throat. Sometimes you can even see the pulse as it moves the skin in a more forceful way.

It may also feel like your heart is beating irregularly or that it has missed a beat, or like there is an occasional extra, more forceful heartbeat.

Do I need to see a doctor for a bounding pulse?

Most incidences of a bounding pulse come and go within a few seconds and are not a cause for concern. However, talk to your doctor as soon as possible if you have a history of heart problems, such as heart disease, and have a bounding pulse.

If you experience any of the following symptoms along with your bounding pulse, get emergency medical care immediately, as these could be signs of a serious problem, like a heart attack:

  • dizziness
  • confusion
  • abnormal sweating
  • lightheadedness
  • difficulty breathing
  • fainting
  • tightness, pressure, or pain in your neck, jaw, arms, chest, or upper back

Underlying causes of a bounding pulse

In many cases, the cause for a bounding pulse is never found. On the other hand, when the cause is found, it is usually not severe or life-threatening. But on occasion, a bounding pulse can point to a serious health problem that requires medical attention.

Most common causes of a bounding pulse

One of the most common causes for a bounding pulse is being out of shape. Participating in strenuous activity that your body is not used to can cause your heart to beat harder and faster than normal.

A bounding pulse is also a common response to stress and anxiety. If you are experiencing extra stress at work or anxiety over a bill, you might feel a bounding pulse. Drinking caffeine and taking stimulants, such as those in asthma medication, can cause your pulse to speed up as well.

Less common causes of a bounding pulse

Less common but more serious conditions could potentially be the cause of your bounding pulse. An overactive thyroid, which causes a condition called hyperthyroidism, may cause your bounding pulse. Your thyroid gland controls your body’s metabolism. If your thyroid gland isn’t working properly, it could cause your heartbeat to become irregular. An arrhythmia may also be to blame for your bounding pulse. An arrhythmia is an irregular heartbeat. It can include a heartbeat that is too fast, too slow, or generally irregular. In children, a bounding pulse can be a presenting symptom of warm septic shock.

Diagnosing and treating your symptoms

Try to keep track of when your bounding pulse occurs and what you are doing when it happens. Also, be knowledgeable of your family’s medical history. This information will help your doctor to diagnose any condition that may be causing your symptom.

Your doctor will discuss your medical history to see if you have a personal or family history of heart problems, thyroid disease, or stress and anxiety. Your doctor will also look for a swollen thyroid gland, which is a sign of hyperthyroidism. They may perform tests such as a chest X-ray or electrocardiogram to rule out arrhythmia. An electrocardiogram uses electrical pulses to trigger your heartbeat. This will help your doctor find irregularities in the rhythm of your heart.

Unless your bounding pulse is caused by an underlying condition such as arrhythmia or hyperthyroidism, medical treatment is usually not necessary. However, if being overweight is causing the problem, your doctor may advise you about ways to lose weight and live a healthier, more active lifestyle.

If you are found to be healthy overall, your doctor may simply recommend ways to reduce your exposure to triggers of your abnormal heartbeat, such as stress or too much caffeine.

What can I do to stop my symptoms from returning?

If your bounding pulse is caused by a health condition such as hyperthyroidism or an arrhythmia, be sure to follow the health regimen your doctor recommends. This includes taking any medications that they have prescribed.

If you are overweight and experiencing bounding pulse, try to find healthy ways to lose weight and get in shape. The Mayo Clinic suggests some fun, easy ways to work fitness into your schedule, such as:

  • taking your dog or the neighbor’s dog for a walk
  • using television time to be active by lifting weights, walking on the treadmill, or riding your exercise bike
  • doing chores such as mopping the floor, scrubbing the bathtub, mowing the lawn with a push mower, raking leaves, and digging in the garden
  • making fitness your family time such as riding bikes together, playing catch, walking, or running
  • starting a lunchtime walking group at work

If stress and anxiety seem to be the culprit, take steps to reduce them by doing things like:

  • laughing more: watch a comedy or read a funny book
  • connecting with friends and family: make plans to meet for dinner or coffee
  • getting outside: take a walk or ride your bike
  • meditating: quiet your mind
  • getting more sleep
  • keeping a journal

Once your doctor has determined that you don’t have any serious underlying causes for your heart palpitations, try not to worry about them too much. Worrying about your irregular heartbeat only adds additional stress to your life.

Limiting your alcohol and caffeine consumption can also help to keep your pulse from bounding. Some herbs (such as those used in energy drinks), medications, and even tobacco smoke can act as stimulants and should be avoided. Talk to your doctor about stimulant medications you may be on (like those used for asthma) and what your options may be for using an alternative. Do your best to avoid any potential triggers of your bounding pulse. 

Content licensed from:

Written by: Carmella Wint
Medically reviewed on: Jul 25, 2016: Carissa Stephens, RN, CCRN, CPN

This feature is for informational purposes only and should not be used to replace the care and information received from your health care provider. Please consult a health care professional with any health concerns you may have.
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