Try saying this word out loud three times fast:
Did you make it? How’d you do? Well, in case you missed the headline, here’s the definition of the word you were just mangling the pronunciation of:
Definition of sphygmomanometer
: an instrument for measuring blood pressure and especially arterial blood pressure
Yeah, it’s a mouthful but pretty much everyone just calls it a blood pressure cuff. And if you’re a nurse, doctor, or healthcare worker, chances are pretty good you’re using a manual blood pressure cuff daily.
Manual blood pressure cuffs, or sphygmomanometers, have been used since the late 1800s to measure patients’ blood pressure around the world. And even though technology has brought us digitized versions, the manual blood pressure cuff, especially those with a mercury column, is still considered the gold standard.
We’ve scoured the web to find you the best rated and reviewed manual blood pressure cuffs that get the job done quickly and reliably at great prices. So let’s turn up the pressure and dive right into the 5 best manual blood pressure cuffs for nurses, doctors, healthcare workers, or busy moms to use around the house.
If you skip to the end, you’ll find out if digital blood pressure cuffs are better, how to properly use a manual blood pressure cuff, and an interesting historical fact about sphygmomanometers that involves a doomed emperor of Mexico.
The 5 Best Manual Blood Pressure Cuffs
PARAMED Aneroid Sphygmomanometer – (Best Manual Blood Pressure Cuff)
With a 4.5-star rating and more than 8,000 reviews, the PARAMED Aneroid Sphygmomanometer takes the top spot. You get a universal 8.75 – 16.5” universal cuff, dial gauge, and D-ring carrying case.
The cuff is made from an extra-durable nylon weave with an easy to use velcro strip to secure it. The premium quality dial is large and easy to read and the pressure valve is a good size for quick control.
- Extra durable nylon cuff
- Universal size
- Premium, large-faced dial
- Carrying case
Pros: good construction, easy to read, durable
Cons: doesn’t come with stethoscope
Dixie Ems Deluxe Aneroid Sphygmomanometer (Best Price, Best For Nursing Students)
Another highly-rated manual blood pressure cuff from Dixie Ems. They give you latex-free parts, a universal nylon cuff, and PVC inflation bag. You also get two types of air valves: one twist and push-type which makes deflation even easier. What makes it even easier to purchase is the low price.
The over-engineered aluminum alloy dial is high contrast, easy to read, and reliable – plus, it has a sturdy clip so you can keep it safely stowed. A carrying case is also included.
The great price also makes it perfect for nursing students looking to watch their budgets.
- Durable nylon universal cuff
- Dual air valves
- High-contrast dial
- Carrying case
Pros: unbeatable price, latex-free, durable, easy to read, dual valves
Cons: doesn’t come with a stethoscope
PARAMED Manual Blood Pressure Cuff + Stethoscope (Best Combo Package)
If you need a stethoscope to go along with your new manual blood pressure cuff, PARAMED steps up to the plate again with this great combo package. You get the same universal size cuff, quality, and durability of the PARAMED offering above, plus a good quality, entry-level stethoscope.
Delivering clinical quality that’s accurate and precise, this 1 – 2 combo punch is a knockout.
- Includes stethoscope
- Large, easy to read dial
- Carrying case
Pros: comes with stethoscope, easy to read, price
Cons: stethoscope is functional but entry-level
Santamedical Professional (Best For Nurses And Doctors)
What makes the Santamedical Profession manual blood pressure cuff great for doctors and nurses? Look, they’re all great and very similar. This one just gets great reviews on how easy it is to use.
With a big, readable dial, solid construction, big bulb, and easy to use pressure valve – it all adds up to smooth operation – even with one hand.
- Large, easy to read dial
- FDA cleared
- One-year warranty
- 300 mmHg measurement
- Abrasion, chemical and moisture-resistant
- Carrying case
Pros: easy to use, large dial, comfortable
Cons: only one color
ADC 760 Manual Sphygmomanometer (Best For Paramedics, EMTs, Travel)
The ADC 760 manual blood pressure cuff is the thinnest, least bulky, and most easily stowed cuff of all the offerings. This makes it great to toss in your go-bag if you’re an EMT, paramedic, or a travel nurse. The thinner, sleeker cuff design cuts down on bulk and weight without sacrificing performance.
The ADC proprietary cuff Size Guide measurement system is nice, helping ensure you get the proper fit each time.
- Thin, sleek design
- Size Guide measurement system
- Meets and exceeds design tolerances
- Carrying case
Pros: light, packs away small, easy to read
Cons: may feel uncomfortable to some people
Alright!! Thanks for checking out the rest of our info. We’ve got pretty much every question about manual blood pressure cuffs covered – no pressure at all right?
What Is A Sphygmomanometer And What Does It Measure?
We covered that in the intro – did you try to say it three times aloud? And how bad did you trip over the word? But the proper name for a manual blood pressure cuff is a sphygmomanometer. The roots are in Greek, sphygmos- meaning pulse added to -manometer derived from French meaning an instrument to measure pressure of a fluid.
A manual blood pressure cuff, or any sphygmomanometer, measures circulating blood pressure in the body’s arteries and veins, which is reported in millimeters of mercury (mmHg). All types of pressure whether its blood pressure or tire pressure are measured in mmHg. When the heart beats, you have peak pressure in your veins and arteries – this is the systolic pressure.
The brief pause between beats, when blood pressure is at its lowest, is your diastolic pressure. A healthy adult human has an average blood pressure of 120/80 mmHg.
What Are The Parts Of A Sphygmomanometer or Manual Blood Pressure Cuff?
All manual blood pressure cuffs share pretty much the same design. Where you will see a difference is the gauge. Typically, you’ll see two different types:
A round dial with numbers and an arrow indicator. These are the most commonly used
a mercury column has been used since the first days of sphygmomanometers, not just because the tech didn’t get better – hey we’ve got digital versions now – buy mercury columns are still used because they are the most sensitive and accurate.
A manual blood pressure measurement device has four basic parts:
The cuff is usually made from strong synthetic fabric and has a velcro closure so you can tighten and fix it around the upper arm
Most commonly made from rubber or PVC, the tough air bladder is what you fill to constrict the blood flow of the arm
Pump bulb with pressure valve
The pump bulb is how you fill and release the air in the bladder. Attached between the bulb and the connection tube is a stainless steel pressure valve that you open or close to fill and release air.
A manual blood pressure cuff will have either a round dial gauge or mercury column. The mercury column designs are considered the most accurate and sensitive.
What Are The Other Types of Sphygmomanometers?
Notice I didn’t say manual blood pressure cuffs or manual sphygmomanometers. That’s because there is an updated, digital sphygmomanometer – the digital blood pressure cuff.
All blood pressure cuffs share the same basic qualities of a cuff that goes around the upper arm, an inflatable air bladder, and a measuring device.
A digital cuff has an automatic pump that will do the pumping and release for you. The main difference is that a small digital computer will measure the pressure and give it to you all at once so you don’t have to record the numbers yourself.
Can You Purchase A Sphygmomanometer On Amazon?
Haven’t clicked on any of the links yet? Well, if you haven’t had a look at any of the products on our best manual blood pressure cuff list – the answer is yes.
You can absolutely buy a manual blood pressure cuff on Amazon. You can even find a few great digital sphygmomanometers if you want to try one of those.
How To Use A Manual Blood Pressure Cuff
Yeah, we’re giving you the meat and potatoes first – or if you’re not a carnivore, the teriyaki tempeh strips – and going to show you the 5 steps you need to follow to properly use and record someone’s blood pressure with a manual blood pressure cuff.
NOTE / ALERT / ATTENTION: You Need A Stethoscope For This To Work
If you don’t have a stethoscope – you can’t measure someone’s blood pressure. The cuff and the stethoscope go hand in hand.
- The cuff restricts the pressure and gives you a measurement
- The stethoscope allows you to hear the Korotkoff sound so you know when to take your measurements
How To Line Up A Blood Pressure Cuff
The first step in taking someone’s blood pressure with a manual blood pressure cuff is attaching the cuff. Proper placement and alignment is critical if you want to get a proper reading. Here’s how to line up a blood pressure cuff:
- Make sure the arm is bare, uncovered by a shirt sleeve or clothing – you won’t get an accurate reading if the cuff is placed over clothing.
- Slide the cuff up over the upper arm, about an inch to 2 inches above the elbow.
- Most manual blood pressure cuffs have a tag with two arrows pointing down. They should be pointing down into the crook of the elbow, on either side of the brachial artery.
You can draw a line up from the pinky finger if you need help aligning the arrow. That’s also where you’re going to place the stethoscope diaphragm.
- Cinch the cuff down to where it is snug, but not painfully tight. You should be able to slide a finger between the cuff and arm.
That’s it, now you’re ready to go. Here’s the full list of the steps on how to take someone’s blood pressure with a manual blood pressure cuff.
STEP 1 – Attach The Cuff
Slide your manual blood pressure cuff around the patient’s arm, just above the elbow. The patient can either be seated with their arm resting on a table or chair arm or the patient can be supine (laying down).
The cuff should be roughly 80 – 85% the circumference of the upper arm for a proper fit. Tighten the cuff to where it’s very snug, but not aggressively tightened, and lock it in place with the velcro.
STEP 2 – Press The Stethoscope Over The Brachial Artery
Put your stethoscope on, earpieces in, and gently press the bell or diaphragm over the brachial artery of your patient, located in the crook of the elbow.
STEP 3 – Pump It Up
With quick, rapid pumps, squeeze the bulb until the dial or mercury reads around 180 mmHg – this is above what most healthy adults’ pressure will be. Also, don’t forget to close the pressure valve.
STEP 4 – Release And Listen
Give the pressure valve a small turn until it opens letting the air out of the bladder and listen with the stethoscope while watching the dial. You should let the air out at about 2 – 3 mmHg per second.
The first knock or thump sound is the Korotkoff sound – record that number; it’s the systolic pressure. When the sound stops – make a note of where the dial is. Record that number – it’s the diastolic pressure.
The systolic goes over the diastolic – remember, a healthy adult’s blood pressure is around 120/80 mmHg (any pressure over 180/120 mmHg and you should seek immediate medical attention).
STEP 5 – Repeat
To get the most accurate reading, you need to repeat the steps on the other arm as well.
That’s it. The only trick is becoming familiar with the Korotkoff sound. Once you can recognize it, taking blood pressure manually is easy.
How Does A Manual Blood Pressure Cuff Work?
When you slip the cuff of a manual blood pressure cuff over a person’s upper arm and pump up the bladder, the blood flow of the arm is interrupted. The dial gauge or mercury column will register the highest pressure or systolic pressure. The operator will need a stethoscope so they can listen in on the patient’s brachial artery for the next step.
Then the pressure valve is released, allowing blood to start flowing again. This is what the stethoscope is used for so the measurer can listen for the whooshing, pounding sound of the heart (called the Korotkoff sound). When that sound is heard, the measurement is taken – that is the systolic measurement. As the pressure decreases further and the sound can no longer be heard the diastolic measurement is taken. A digital sphygmomanometer is a bit different in that it records both measurements for you.
Wondering if mercury sphygmomanometers are so accurate, then are aneroid sphygmomanometers accurate too? Follow the link for a more in-depth look.
Are Manual Blood Pressure Cuffs More Accurate Than Digital Ones?
There’s a lot of battling information saying that a digital sphygmomanometer is better than a manual version and vice versa. Which is more accurate – which is more reliable.
But there’s a reason all hospitals and clinics still use dial gauge and mercury column sphygmomanometers when there are digital models out there.
There are actually a few reasons – manual sphygmomanometers are:
- More sensitive and accurate
- Give reliable readings
- Are more durable and less prone to malfunction
A digital blood pressure cuff has a couple of pros and a fairly big con, depending on how accurate you need it to be and how often you’re going to be using it. One of the main arguments for digital blood pressure cuffs is that they cut out human error, the computer is taking the measurements.
- Easy to use – measurements are taken for you
- Smaller models are easy to carry anywhere
- You don’t need a stethoscope
- Some have automatic inflators
- Not as accurate
- May give varying readings for different people
- Has sensitive equipment
- Not as reliable (batteries, computer)
So is a digital blood pressure cuff better? On the whole – no. Manual blood pressure cuffs are still more reliable and accurate than digital versions, plus they don’t need batteries.
Can You Take Your Own Blood Pressure With A Manual Cuff?
Why yes – yes you can. In fact, it’s not that hard. You do it just like you would for another person, except you’re doing it on yourself:
- Attach the cuff around your upper arm
- Use the same arm wearing the cuff to pump the bulb
- Use your other hand to hold the chest piece of the stethoscope over your brachial artery
- Release the valve
- Listen for the Korotkoff sound and record it
- Record the diastolic pressure number
So you’ve got 5 great manual blood pressure cuffs to choose from and just about every question answered – plus you learned that the inventor of the sphygmomanometer was the personal physician of an executed emperor.
Shop around – no pressure – you’ll find a cuff that perfectly fits your needs.