Whether you get checked out at your doctor’s office, try a kiosk at a pharmacy or store, or keep track at home, measuring your blood pressure regularly is a key part of managing hypertension. No one would say it’s fun, though. 

Regardless of your age, gender, size or health conditions, taking your blood pressure can be a bit uncomfortable, especially when the cuff inflates to its highest point. But while some mild discomfort is normal when taking your blood pressure, you shouldn’t be feeling intense pain or a sharp pinching sensation during a measurement.

Assuming you’re taking your blood pressure correctly, don’t have an injury to your arm and aren’t feeling pain outside of taking your blood pressure, the main culprit behind arm pain during a blood pressure reading is likely an improperly-fitting cuff.

Here’s how to find the right size for your arm. 

How to find the right blood pressure cuff size

If the cuff you’re using doesn’t fit properly, it could squeeze your arm too tightly, causing your skin to fold over and pinch. Not only that, but an improper cuff fit could also lead to error codes on your blood pressure monitor or incorrect — often abnormally high — blood pressure readings.

Luckily, figuring out the best cuff size for your arm is simple: Wrap a soft tape measure around your bicep (between your elbow and shoulder), pull the tape snug (but not tight) and make a note of the size of your upper arm. This will give you a number to compare to the sizes listed on your cuff.

Another rule of thumb is to look at how much of your arm the cuff covers. In terms of length, the cuff should ideally cover about 80% of your arm between your elbow and shoulder; in terms of width, you want the inflatable part of the cuff to cover about 40% of the circumference of your upper arm.

Diagram showing ideal blood pressure cuff fit

Most blood pressure cuffs fit a wide range of arm sizes, but if your arm size falls outside of this range, you may need to swap in a different cuff size or use a different monitor.

A&D blood pressure cuff sizes

A&D offers a fit chart that lists the correct cuff size to use with their products based on your arm size. While many people’s arms will fall into the 8.6- to 16.5-inch circumference range covered by the standard AccuFit Plus “Wide Range” cuff (UA-420), which is available with most A&D blood pressure monitors, including the UA-651BLE commonly used by MyNurse members, you may need a larger or smaller cuff.  

If your arm circumference is larger than 16.5 inches and you want to stick with an A&D monitor, you’ll need the X-Large cuff (UA-282), which is only compatible with the UA-789AC blood pressure monitor. If you suspect this is the case or need help with measuring your arm, contact us and we’ll be happy to help you find a cuff or new device that suits your needs.

BodyTrace & Omron blood pressure cuff sizes

The standard BodyTrace blood pressure cuff fits arm sizes of between 8.75 and 16.5 inches. If you need a larger cuff, let us know. 

Meanwhile, Omron offers a few different cuff sizes, starting with the ComFit cuff, which is pre-formed to wrap around most people’s upper arms. The ComFit cuff fits upper arms with a circumference between 9 and 17 inches and comes standard on a number of devices. 

Other Omron devices use a d-ring cuff, which features a metal ring through which one end of the cuff is pulled before being fastened to the arm. Omron’s d-ring cuffs come in three sizes:

  • Standard: Fits arms with a circumference of 9 to 13 inches
  • Small adult: Fits arms with a circumference of 7 to 9 inches
  • Large adult: Fits arms with a circumference of 13 to 17 inches

If cuff fit isn’t the issue

If you’re experiencing intense arm pain when you take your blood pressure even after you’ve measured your arm circumference and made sure you have a cuff that fits, double check your cuff placement to be sure the monitor is able to correctly detect your blood pressure. If the device can’t get the signals it needs because the cuff is not in the right place, it may end up over-inflating. Similarly, if you’re moving during the reading, your monitor may be “thrown off” and the cuff may remain inflated for a longer period in order to take a measurement.

Keep in mind, too, that your cuff needs to inflate to a higher pressure than your systolic blood pressure in order to take a measurement; so if your blood pressure is especially high, the cuff may inflate to a higher level than usual and cause some pain.

If you find that arm pain frequently occurs at the doctor’s office with an automatic blood pressure monitor, you can ask your nurse or doctor to measure your blood pressure manually with a pump instead to see if that helps. 

And if you can’t seem to find a way to take your blood pressure without experiencing pain, talk to your doctor. You could be dealing with an underlying injury or other condition that’s causing your discomfort. 

If you’re an older adult looking for a helping hand as you tackle high blood pressure, diabetes or other health issues, you may qualify for a myNurse membership as a Medicare-covered benefit. Membership comes with remote health monitoring, connected health testing devices and one-on-one coaching. See how it works and check if your insurance covers the program.
Waleed Mohsen

Author Waleed Mohsen

Waleed Mohsen is the co-founder and CEO of mynurse.ai. He has been named a UCSF Rosenman Innovator and has over 10 years of experience working with leaders of hospitals and medical institutions in his business development roles at Siemens and Cisco.

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