How to Use a Digital Sphygmomanometer

Updated February 21, 2017

Previously, only trained health care professionals could take blood pressure measurements because the auscultatory method of listening using a stethoscope required substantial practice. This traditional method remains the most accurate method of measuring blood pressure. However, you can now purchase an inexpensive, digital sphygmomanometer, also known as a blood pressure cuff, at your local drugstore. These digital blood pressure cuffs facilitate monitoring of blood pressure at home, and can be especially helpful when you are prescribed medication that could affect your blood pressure.

Sit in a comfortable chair and rest for five minutes.

Wrap the blood pressure cuff snugly around your upper arm, so that the bottom is approximately 1 inch above the inner bend of your elbow.

Rotate the blood pressure cuff around your arm, so that the artery mark is positioned over your brachial artery on your inner arm between your bicep and tricep muscles.

Close the emergency pressure release valve.

Set the initial pressure dial about 30 to 40mm Hg higher than your last systolic blood pressure measurement (i.e., the high number) if your blood pressure cuff provides this option. For example, if your last blood pressure reading was 150/80, set the initial pressure to 180.

Press the power button to turn on the digital sphygmomanometer. The cuff should immediately start to inflate, although some models may also have a start button. When the cuff reaches full pressure, it will begin to deflate at 2 to 5mm Hg per second. The deflation rate and heartbeat will show on the digital screen.

Record your blood pressure measurement in a notebook or on a calendar as the larger number over the smaller number (e.g., 150/80)--the larger number is the pressure in your arteries when your heart pumps, and the smaller number is the pressure in your arteries when your heart is resting.


Do not smoke or drink caffeine for at least 30 minutes prior to taking your blood pressure. Use the rest room before taking your blood pressure; a full bladder can affect the result.


If you experience extreme pain while attempting to measure your blood pressure, immediately open the emergency pressure release valve. If the pain subsides, contact your doctor to schedule an appointment and do not attempt to take your blood pressure again. If the pain does not subside within a few minutes, call 911. Keep your digital sphygmomanometer calibrated according to the manufacturer's instructions in order to ensure accurate results.

Things You'll Need

  • Comfortable chair
  • Digital sphygmomanometer
  • Notebook or calendar
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About the Author

Emmalise Mac has been writing professionally since 2006 and her work has been published online, in newsletters, newspapers and scientific journals and in wildlife guidebooks. She has published on topics including wildlife, pets and pet health, science, gardening, outdoor activities and crafts. She holds Bachelor and Master of Science degrees in biology.