BP monitors

Which is more accurate – a manual or an automatic blood pressure cuff?

Many people get stuck on deciding which blood pressure device to purchase when they are faced with so many options. For many, the decision may be based on the precision of a manual device versus automated machines.

What are the different types of BP monitors?

Devices for measuring blood pressure can be different in the way they work (automatic or manual), as well as in the location a measurement is taken (upper arm or wrist).

The two main types

Generally speaking, the two main types of blood pressure devices are automatic and manual. The automatic blood pressure monitor inflates the cuff on its own after the user presses a button. When measuring blood pressure with a manual monitor (sphygmomanometer), you have to inflate the cuff yourself using the inflating bulb attached to the cuff.

The subtypes

Within these two types, there are sub-types. For instance, manual sphygmomanometers can be aneroid or mercury based. The automated machines include ones that go on your upper arm and ones that go on your wrist. They also differ in their features, such as the additional ability to detect heart rate abnormalities.

The differences

The main difference between manual and digital blood pressure monitors is their method of usage. Manual monitors require that the user interprets the results using a stethoscope and a gauge, while digital monitors display the results on a screen. Your decision should be based not only on their ease of use, but also the blood pressure monitor’s accuracy.

Manual blood pressure readings

Some people might be intimidated by the manual blood pressure device because they assume that it is too complex to use. But the truth of the matter is that it simply requires a little practice to become familiar with using one.

How to use it

Simply wrap the cuff around your upper arm, tuck the stethoscope bell under the front of the cuff, and start pumping air into the cuff. Once the gauge reading is at 160-180 mmHg, stop pumping air, and begin to listen through the stethoscope while releasing the air slowly. The gauge reading you see when you hear the first heartbeat is the systolic number, and the gauge reading you see when you hear the last heartbeat is the diastolic number.


A limitation of a manual device is that it does require a bit of skill to get the hang of using one. If you have limited mobility, this might be a hindrance to you. It also requires good hearing, which may not suit everyone.


The advantages of a manual blood pressure cuff lie in the fact that it has been proven to give slightly more accurate results when used correctly. This slight advantage may make a huge difference for someone with hypertension who needs to measure their blood pressure very often and keep a close eye on their health. For this reason, medical professionals might tend to opt for a manual blood pressure cuff rather than an automated one.

How to get accurate readings with automated blood pressure monitors?

If you’ve decided to get yourself or your loved one an automatic blood pressure measurement device, you need to follow certain guidelines to always make sure that the readings you are obtaining from the machine at home are accurate. The accuracy of digital blood pressure monitors largely depends on following these guidelines:

How to prepare yourself

Avoid any sort of strenuous activity for half an hour before you intend to take the test. You must also avoid consuming caffeine, smoking, and taking a shower/bath during this time. Try to completely relax for up to ten minutes prior to the test.

Proper cuff placement

The cuff must be placed on your upper arm, on bare skin, about an inch above your elbow. Rest your arm on a hard surface that is at chest-level.

What to do during the test

While the test is being conducted, do not speak or move. You must also try to relax and breathe at a normal rate until the test is over.

Reading the results

Once the test is done and the results are up, they will be displayed on your screen. Doctors advise patients to take the test around two to three times in a row with about a minute of rest in between each run.

The arguments have been laid out and now the choice is yours

You are now well-informed about the ways in which the manual and automated blood pressure machines differ. To recap, although both are excellent choices for home and clinical use, the manual sphygmomanometers are proven to have a slight edge over the automated ones in terms of accuracy. However, in terms of ease of use, the automatic monitors emerge on top by a small margin. So, the decision is left completely up to you and what you are looking for in a blood pressure measuring device that best suits your needs.

About the Author

sandy beck

Sandy Beck

Sandy Beck is CouponAnnie's consumer savings expert. Her work has been featured by Consumer Reports, The New York Times, Savings Hub, and MarketWatch. Sandy enjoys shopping and she is an extreme couponing expert.