How To Find Pulses?

Finding and assessing pulses is a fundamental skill in healthcare and first aid. Pulses provide valuable information about a person's heart rate and can indicate the overall condition of their circulatory system. Here's a step-by-step guide on how to find and assess pulses in different locations:

1. Prepare:

  • Ensure you are in a well-lit and quiet environment where you can focus on the task.
  • Ask the person to relax and remain still.

2. Wash Your Hands:

  • Before touching the person, wash your hands thoroughly to maintain hygiene.

3. Choose the Pulse Location:

  • There are several pulse points in the body, but the most commonly used ones include:
    • Radial Pulse: Located on the inside of the wrist, just below the base of the thumb.
    • Carotid Pulse: Located in the neck, on either side of the windpipe (trachea).
    • Brachial Pulse: Located on the inside of the upper arm, midway between the elbow and shoulder. Used when assessing an infant's pulse.
    • Femoral Pulse: Located in the groin, at the crease between the thigh and the lower abdomen.
    • Popliteal Pulse: Located behind the knee joint.
    • Dorsalis Pedis Pulse: Located on the top of the foot, just below the base of the big toe.
    • Posterior Tibial Pulse: Located on the inner side of the ankle, slightly behind the anklebone.

4. Position Your Fingers:

  • Use your index and middle fingers (never use your thumb, as it has its own pulse) to gently press on the selected pulse point.
  • Apply light pressure initially, as excessive pressure can obstruct blood flow and make it difficult to detect the pulse.

5. Feel for the Pulse:

  • Focus on feeling for the pulsations beneath your fingertips. You may need to adjust the angle and pressure slightly to locate the pulse accurately.
  • Be patient; it may take a few seconds to feel the pulse, especially if the person has a weak or irregular heartbeat.

6. Count the Beats:

  • Once you've located the pulse, count the number of beats in one minute to determine the heart rate. Alternatively, count for 15 seconds and multiply by four to get the beats per minute.

7. Assess the Pulse Rhythm:

  • Pay attention to the regularity of the pulse. Is it steady and regular, or irregular? An irregular pulse may indicate an arrhythmia, which should be evaluated by a healthcare professional.

8. Assess the Pulse Strength:

  • Consider the strength or amplitude of the pulse. Is it strong, weak, or absent?
  • Use descriptive terms like "strong," "normal," "weak," or "thready" to characterize the pulse's strength.

9. Document Your Findings:

  • Record the pulse rate, rhythm, and strength in a first aid log or medical chart, if applicable.

10. Repeat as Needed: - In some situations, it may be necessary to assess multiple pulse points or recheck the same pulse point to ensure accuracy, especially in emergency or critical care scenarios.


  • If you're unable to find a pulse, seek medical assistance immediately, as it may indicate a life-threatening situation.
  • When assessing the carotid pulse in the neck, use gentle pressure to avoid stimulating the vagus nerve, which can lead to a sudden drop in heart rate.

Practicing the skill of finding and assessing pulses is essential for healthcare providers, first responders, and anyone interested in basic first aid. It can help you identify potential medical issues and provide valuable information in emergencies.

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