This is about how to tell the difference between an irregular heartbeat and a twitching muscle in your chest.
When a muscle twitches (fasciculates), it can be very rhythmic, kind of like the beat of a drum. However, it can also be irregular, with an erratic nature.
If this erratic or irregular nature occurs in a muscle that’s located in your chest, you’ll feel it just as if you were feeling the erratic fasciculations of an eyelid or elsewhere such as in your butt, the back of your upper leg or your calves.
An irregular heartbeat can’t always be felt, which is why sometimes, a person is diagnosed with arrhythmia despite not feeling anything wrong with their heart rhythm.
Irregular Heartbeat OR Twitching Muscle in the Chest?
“Irregular heartbeats, also known as arrhythmias, can feel like a flutter in the center of the chest and are quite common,” says J. Mark Anderson, MD, DABFM, of Executive Medicine of Texas and who is board certified in family medicine.
Recently I experienced twitching in a chest muscle – that came several hours after a chest workout at the gym.
I was at my computer when it began. And I have to admit, it made me think of my heartbeat becoming irregular.
So I took my pulse at the radial artery. While I was feeling my pulse, I was also feeling the mild thumping in my chest.
THEY DID NOT SYNCH. And that’s one of the key ways to tell the difference between an irregular heartbeat and a twitching muscle in the chest.
- They totally did NOT match up.
- I clearly felt two distinct, separate entities.
- My pulse was steady and in a normal range.
- Simultaneously I felt the fasciculations, which were a different sensation, not at all in tune with the pulse.
But there’s more you can do to differentiate between an irregular heart rhythm and a simple muscle twitch.
LOOK at your chest where you feel the fasciculations. I did. I actually saw the thumping beneath the skin. This was further confirmation of what was actually happening.
“In many instances, a twitching chest muscle can be seen by the patient or observed by others,” says Dr. Anderson.
“Much like a twitching eyelid, a twitching muscle in the chest is not serious. It can be a result of stress, either physical or mental.”
Now if you don’t see any movement under your skin, do not panic.
First of all, hold a magnifying mirror beneath the area (you may need to tinker with the position to get the right angle for viewing).
The mirror that works best is one of those circular three and a half inch diameter ones that you can get at Walmart and I’m sure many other retailers.
They come in 5x, 10x and even 20x magnification. You will see a LOT with a 20x mirror.
If you still don’t see anything, this does not mean there’s no twitching.
“Twitching in a chest muscle feels much different than an irregular heartbeat,” says Dr. Anderson.
“Instead of feeling as if it’s coming from deep within the chest, it will feel more superficial.”
So go back to taking your pulse and noting that what your fingers are detecting in your wrist does not synch up with what you’re feeling under your chest.
You may also feel for your pulse at your neck.
The twitching may or may not persist. And by crazy chance, you may have an arrhythmia that you don’t feel.
“Sometimes people with arrhythmias will have the urge to cough,” says Dr. Anderson. “Coughing can help the heart go back to its regular rhythm.”
If you have a gut feeling that something’s wrong with your heart, see a cardiologist who will listen with a stethoscope and have a 12 point EKG taken to see if there are any abnormalities in the rhythm.
Keep in mind that worrying about this can induce muscle twitching!
Dr. Anderson explains, “Arrhythmias are often caused by stress or caffeine, but some arrhythmias happen with no identifiable cause.
“Arrhythmias that last longer than a few seconds or that are accompanied by symptoms such as dizziness, fainting, fatigue or shortness of breath should be treated as a medical emergency.”
Dr. Anderson is coauthor of the award-winning book, “Stay Young: 10 Proven Steps to Ultimate Health,” and host of the nationally syndicated Staying Young Show which goes to podcast as Staying Young Show 2.0.
Lorra Garrick has been covering medical, fitness and cybersecurity topics for many years, having written thousands of articles for print magazines and websites, including as a ghostwriter. She’s also a former ACE-certified personal trainer.