Blood Pressure Cuff Pain & Fibromyalgia

I have always experienced quite a bit of pain when my blood pressure has been taken but I always assumed that it was like that for everyone. I just never thought anything about it, but I never complained to the doctor about it either. I just assumed that’s the way it was. Then last night I read an article on Chronic Pain Connection titled Could A Blood Pressure Test Help Diagnose Fibromyalgia?

Karen Lee Richards, a Fibromyalgia patient and contributor to the site, says that she always dreads having her blood pressure taken because of the pain and a nurse even called her a wimp one time. Another time she had a more compassionate nurse who suggested using the larger blood pressure cuff to help alleviate the pain.

According to a 2006 study, approximately 69% of Fibromyalgia experience pain from an inflated blood pressure cuff during testing.

The study entitled Sphygmomanometry-Evoked Allodynia A Simple Bedside Test Indicative of Fibromyalgia: A Multicenter Developmental Study was published in the December 2006 issue of the Journal of Clinical Rheumatology.

Terminology:

Sphygmomanometry The standard blood pressure test everyone receives at the doctors office.

Allodynia A condition in which pain results from a stimulus that does not normally evoke pain.

As part of the study, participants included 20 Fibromyalgia patients, 20 rheumatoid arthritis patients, 20 osteoarthritis patients and 20 healthy individuals in each of three public rheumatology outpatient services. Each participant was asked to answer the question, When I take your blood pressure, tell me if the cuffs pressure brings forth pain.

The results showed that 69% of Fibromyalgia patients experienced sphygmomanometry-evoked allodynia. But surprisingly only 10% of rheumatoid arthritis patients, 5% of OA patients and 2 healthy participants did.

In this study there was a strong association between pain experienced during blood pressure testing and the diagnosis of Fibromyalgia. Sphygmomanometry is a simple test and a universally standard clinical procedure that may be useful in recognizing FM patients. Based on the results of this study, the researchers suggest looking for other FM features in anyone who has sphygmomanometry-evoked allodynia.

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Comments

  1. Sandy – I’m glad to hear that you are feeling better than what was going on for you last week with all of the weird scary symptoms. We do get them, don’t we? It’s amazing that each time I think my system has gone as beserk as possible, it finds new and inventive ways to torture me.

    I am now dealing with systemic itchiness; the feeling is incredible and last night I had 6 ice packs strategically placed all over me to get some relief, from the top of my head to my toes. The F & F Center is having me do a liver panel tomorrow.

    However, the initiative for writing was within the content of today’s post. The woman who was called a “wimp” because of the pain of the blood pressure cuff. It’s amazing how ignorant people can be, which resonates throughout the medical community, let alone lay people.

    I identify with this due to my blood pressure and heart rate that has been difficult to regulate, and I have a good doctor taking care of the issue. Regardless, when she took my pressure, which was quite high and then my husbands (wow – what an exciting date – simultaneous Dr. appointment!!), his was low/normal.

    Her comment was “Well SOMEONE in the family has to remain calm” This woman had no clue as to my illness and what I’ve been dealing with, and I did not waste one breath defending myself, but I wanted to go for her throat. If thoughts could kill, she wouldn’t be here any longer.

    I realize that may sound somewhat of an overreaction. It’s just a culmination of stupid people saying stupid things and letting them go. I have to say that my primary care physician is wonderful and on board with all that I’m doing with the F & F Center and jointly deailng with some of my health issues, so that’s not an issue, but it’s just incredible the nonsense and ignorance that we hear spewed over the years from unsolicited sources.

    UGH!!

  2. P.S. – I failed to mention that it was the Nurse (not the Doctor) taking my pressure who uttered the nonsense.

  3. Hi Nancy, I went to the F & F Centers for a long time. The closest one to my house is almost 3 hours away so the long drives took a toll on me. I see the doctor once a year when I need my meds refilled.

    I know people can be so ignorant. I would love to have them live in my body for just one day.

  4. Hi Sandy – I hear you on the commute to the F & F Centers and the toll it takes. We’re only 1 hour away from the Connecticut center and the last two appointments had to be telephone appointments. Even though my husband would be driving, I couldn’t get there.

    I’m only going there next Tuesday to get the last portion of a particular blood test done and I’m not even staying for an IV treatment. Although I enjoyed the IV’s, they too took a toll, and my Dr. there doesn’t want this to be an additional burden for me.

    So for now it’s the meds/supplements, etc. (which I am off of as of yesterday with this systemic itching) until the source of the itching is revealed. That bloodwork I can have done here locally. Fortunately, the Doctor in the CT location is good about getting me through this slowly since I’m a such a weak point in this very long journey.

  5. Thanks so much for this post! I have been complaining for the past 4 years about the blood pressure cuff pain, and no one seems to believe me, or care for that matter. One nurse said “that shouldn’t hurt” as if I was lying. I have not been diagnosed, mainly because my doc doesn’t believe in it. Every time I mentioned it he said we would talk about it at the next visit. I am no longer covered by insurance so I don’t go to the doctor. Glad to have found your site! God Bless!

  6. Hi Sandra! Thanks for stopping by and commenting. I hope you continue to stop in daily to read the site. There is a lot of information on here that will keep you busy for quite a while!

    I thought it was normal for the blood pressure cuff to hurt so I never complained about it.

  7. Jan Frost says:

    I too had come to accept that pain from the blood pressure cuff was normal. During my first carpal tunnel operation I was begging the doctor to knock me out because of the pain from the blood pressure cuff. During the second one they still wouldn’t knock me out but thankfully the pain wasn’t as bad with the cuff on the left arm so I must remember that. After the operations I have had I have also noticed bruising around my arm where the cuff has been.
    Jan

  8. Great tips, thanks!

  9. I hate getting my blood pressure taken because of that cuff! Nurses think I’m a wimp when I complain. They have a new study out for people who live with fibromyalgia, which I just signed up for. It is open to anyone who lives in the US. All you have to do is participate in a few phone calls that are stretched out over the course of a year. It might help further research and treatments for the disease, which would benefit us all. I can look up the information for anyone if they are interested. Email me at catz3326@aol.com.

  10. I had the worst experience with BP cuff two days ago in the ER. Apparently it couldn’t find my pulse because it kept squeezing until my entire left side of my body went numb and I was crying out, saying “It hurts, it’s too tight!” The nurse said, “oh it will let up in a minute” and I don’t think she realized how bad it was. It did it again on my right arm, too. I now have a nice 5″ black bruise along the underside of my left arm and my arm/hand kind of hurt. I also have bruises on my right arm too, although not as bad – as she stopped the cuff the 2nd time it got too tight. I’ve never had such a thing happen to me before – but hear that it happens a lot, especially to older people. it’s awful!

  11. I found this site when googling for an answer about pain from blood pressure monitor cuffs. I’ve always had low blood pressure, but that was not the case when I stopped in at a health fair and had it taken last Saturday. Not only was it sky-high, but I felt such excruciating pain that it was all I could do to keep from screaming out. To make things worse, the women there insisted on taking it three times, not believing it was possible my blood pressure could be that high.

    I bought a blood pressure monitor this week so I could monitor my own. When I used it, I experienced the same excruciating pain. My husband used the monitor on himself, trying several times moving the cuff from his upper arm to his lower. When it varied only a few points, he took mine again, but on the lower arm. It caused only a little pain, and registered much lower. So, my question is this: Wouldn’t experiencing severe pain in itself make a blood pressure reading really high?

    I had already suspected I might have fibromyalgia. I guess this could be another sign.

  12. In addition to the pain, the pain causes a symptom-high blood pressure. So the doctor treats you for high blood pressure even if you don’t have it, which results in fatigue, listlessness and so on. European treat for low blood pressure,the US pretty much seems to ignore it as a problem.

    So I’m guessing a lot of fibro sufferers are being treated for high blood pressure when they don’t have it.

    Pain causes your body to do a whole bunch of things, the adrenal constricts the blood vessels and blood pressure pops right up. Since 210 is the proposed cut off for diagnosing fibro with a cuff I kind of assumed most would be close to that (at about 180 you could put my arm in boiling oil and it wouldn’t feel much different) but a study found the medium was a mere 143 a number you are almost sure to experience.

    In the end, it’s just another case where malpractice is actually the norm for fibro sufferers.

  13. I am totally having this problem. I am 15 weeks pregnant and have had fibro for 14 years(since I was a child). I am having to check my blood pressure 2x a day because of high blood pressure while pregnant. I thought it was weird that it brought me to tears each time I took it. It gets so sore I can’t even lift my arm. Wow, I never thought about it being fibromyalgia!

  14. Katja Jones says:

    I also get severe pain in my arm that remains for several hours to over a day after having my blood pressure taken by a BP machine. I noticed that I get it worse in my left arm than in my right arm and was wondering if there is a medical explanation behind this?
    Therefore I started to request to have my blood pressure taken manually which helps a lot. However doing this is not always easy. I often get a mechanical blood pressure cuff slapped on my arm before I can say “hello” to the nurse. Also I was surprised by the resentment I encountered by some of the nurses and the lack of manual equipment available in the clinic. However, I keep reminding myself that the nurses and doctors do work for me and I can voice my opinion about rude treatment. While some nurses are understanding it may be best to not call the rude treatment by others to their face but politely ask to have another nurse come take the BP manually since I do not feel comfortable with her/him. I really don’t think patients should be put through the anxiety that a simple BP check can cause.

  15. I have been through the exact same situation. The blood pressure cuff causes me such excruciating pain that I feel an enormous amount of anxiety just leading up to it. I talked to my mom today and she said that it hurts her too. I have been diagnosed with fibromyagia as well as an underactive thyroid, insulin resistence, depression, anxiety, chronic sleep diorder, torn ACL, Avascular Necrosis(which means part of the bone in my right wrist is dead and/or dying), Chronic middle back pain( I am going to the doc tomorrow and hoping that he will do an ultrasound in the office on my gallbladder, which I have read can cause this type of severe pain. I just recenty had to have laproscopic surgery to look for a build up of scar tissue from a c-section scar from 13 years ago and they cleaned me out. This should help with some of the pain in my pelvic area. I was told that my tube was actually attached to my ovary??? I didn’t even know that this could happen. Well it can and the scar tissue groes like cob webs attaching to organs and the walls of your stomach and even the intestines. Anyone that is having this type of pain, I recomend talking to you OB/GYN. I just thought it was Fibromyalgia. I have been in a state of severe pain for almost 3 years and haven’t been able to find much relief. My current Family Doc is treating me and really good about digging in and looking for causes to symptoms and not just letting someone label it as FMS prescribe some meds and send you on your way. I am happy that he is managing my hormones and thyroid and such,however, I don’t feel like my pain is being treated. I am 34 and female. Four years ago I was pain free and even taking juijitsu with my family and very used to being punched, kicked and familiar with the duck and role, but I do believe this was also my down fall. I tore my ACL in class one night. The ortho said that it was a slight tear so he wasn’t going to do surgery. From then on I spent most of my days in flats, in pain, and taking tylenol and aleve like it was goin out of style. A year later I stepped down on my leg, it gave out, and i was left with a torn medial meniscus that had wripped off the bone and flipped over on top of itself. Needless to say My Doctor said that I had one of the worst knees he had seen in 15 years. I have been in constant pain ever since. All growing up and even after having three children I always believed that I had a higher tolerance to pain than most people I knew. I feel like the continuous pain has somehow increased my sensitivity to pain and feel helpless because I don’t know how to get back to being that fun-loving girl who laughed and was the life of every party. I feel like that part of me is gone. I want that part of myself back. I want me back. I’m scared that the law of attraction has brought more pain into my body because of my continual thoughts of pain. I can’t hardly control these thoughts when it is all that I ever feel. I wish healing and a fulfilling life for all of you. I hope the doctors can find a way to help us. I feel like I’ve tried to change things I can control i.e. diet, excersize. Good luck to all.

  16. Good morning, my wife went to the doctors last Thursday for a small knot on her leg. She is a diabetic,has RA and Fibro. Nurse came in asked the normal questions and we reminded her the wife has fibro that she might not be able to take the BP because of the pain. The nurse stated she too had Fibro and she went on to tell us what she took for it. Back to the BP she pumped and pumped the cuff my wife is screaming and bouncing back and forth in her chair while cluching her chest. I jump up and reach across her lap and rip off the cuff while doing this I startle the nurse (zoned out or being mean)?
    The NP comes in and looks at knot doesn’t seem to notice or care that wife is still crying and holding her chest. He makes small talk and finally wife leaves and I finish up finding out what to do with the knot. I find my wife at the van still crying. No one in the doctors office asked how she was or why she was crying or holding her chest. Went home wife had a hard time sleeping that night. In the morning the pain was worse so we went to the ER. Er doctor did tests and came back saying she was not having a heart attack but did have damage to her heart. Spent all that day and night in hosiptal next day half a day of stress tests etc before being able to go home. Said we need to find heart doctor. Doctor on call was the doctor hows staff caused the problem to begin with. Procribed Nitro for chest pains. Sorry this is geting long. Wife has bruses around her upper right arm from the origenal BP test at DR office. Question is did the Trama of the BP test cause my wife to end up in hospital?

    one thing more we have had trouble getting medicianes pre approved through insurance ( DR has to do the paper work for this) but we called several times asking about this and always got the run around. Could the nurse of been retaliating for us calling to much and talking time out of her day cuase she had to mess with us? We are talked to DR while in hospital and showed her the brusing, told here that we felt this was what put the wife in hopital but all Dr said was oh. Charges? We are looking for a new DR we don’t trust the staff any longer. Thanks for your help and guidance.

  17. My father, who passed away in 2005, always complained about the pressure cuff. I talked with the nurses and doctors but to no avail. We changed medical centers and finally found a doctor that agreed with him.

    Thank you for the information. I completely understood.

  18. I’m glad I found this website. It has always been extremely painful getting my blood pressure taken, especially from the robot automatic cuffs that completely cut off the circulation. The pain is intense, like a deep bruise squeezing a nerve. The reading is always very high, which I think is a response to the painful cuff, so it takes again and again, each time driving the numbers higher and leaves me with bruises in my arm. Then the nurse or doctor then tell you the danger of having a stroke or heart attack. I monitor my blood pressure with a wrist bp monitor, which does not hurt, and gives accurate readings. I do not have high blood pressure elsewhere and at home, where I feel relaxed and safe. I read that chronic pain causes an exaggerated response to pain with a rise in blood pressure. I needed a root canal last week, and the endodontist refused to do it because his robot machine said my bp was 222 over 125 after four tries. So I can’t get my tooth repaired. I’m going to try a tranquilizer and see if that helps with the pain response.

  19. Oh my gosh! Finally someone else who understands..I have been diagnosed with RA, Fibro, OA, and most recently Ankylosing Spondylitis. I have had pain whenever my blood pressure was taken for years, but just assumed everyone does. Recently it had gotten so bad I find myself griting my teeth and holding my breath to keep from screaming! Like so many of you I am reading about, I am now on medication for high blood pressure. A couple of nights ago, I began having chest pain and tightness, ( I am a 44 year old slightly overweight white female) I was taken to the ER who continued to take my BP over and over, wondering why it was steadily going UP!! I was told I was being “difficult” because I wouldn’t be still. I was admitted after some enzyme test the did came back indicating I was in severe pain.. are they serious? Three days later, after a heart cath, and stress test, they determine there is nothing wrong with my heart… but now I can barely move my arms, both have huge bruises on them and I had so many needle punctures I lost count.. does anyone else find your veins blowing too now? I was stuck eight times before I put my foot down and told them to get the Doctor. I look so bad my boyfriend felt the need to explain to the grocery clerk that I had just gotten out of the hospital, because she was staring army bruises.. is there any help for people like me? Or am I destined to be labeled difficult and “depressed seeking attention” for the rest of my life?

  20. I, too, have fibromyalgia, and it hurt whenever I had my BP taken, so I started requesting to have it taken on my lower arm. That was fine, unless recently – that, too, has now started hurting.

  21. packing_Pink_heat says:

    Yes, I am not sure what causes this. I suffer from Chronic unrelenting pain and fatigue and the past year having my blood pressure taken makes me wince and want to scream. Sitting at the one they have next to the Pharmacy was soooo bad I had to make it stop. It was horrible. Moving to a state that does not recognize fibro for what it is. It seems everyone claims they have it yet they are still doing things, going places, having family get togethers, going to dinner and movies…..things I have not done in almost two decades. :( Now my docs new office manager accused me of being a drug addict! WTF?? He is an office manager, not a doctor, and I am a conservative woman who reads a chapter a day never leaving my house unless its a doctor appointment. I am completely offended and feel as if I am being accused of being a criminal. When I told him that sometimes I only take one a day he accused me of selling my pills!! God HElP US OR BE KIND AND LET US GO IN PEACE! Funny how its inhumane to let a pet suffer, but they let people like us scream and cry in pain. Many times waking up in realization that my pillow is wet from tears, crying in my sleep.

  22. packing_Pink_heat says:

    Oh and what is sickening is that Nevada is where the Whitmore Institute resides. Very misleading though since they do not see patients at all. What is it that they do do?

  23. PurpleGirl says:

    I found this site while researching cuff-caused pain. I;ve always had a painful, sqeezing feeling as the cuff inflated but the last few times recently, I’ve also experienced burning feeling in my upper arm. Of course, I’m wincing, crying and generally trying to move and the nurses are telling me to relax and try not to move. The noted it on my chart that I was crying but I don’t know if they put down anything about the burning sensation. It felt like the sciatic pain from the herniated disk felt years ago. I feel much better after reading about all your problems, even though they aren’t the same and I don’t have fibro problems. I hope we all are able to find solutions to the pain.

  24. I’m in Australia and have shared this with my Support Group who can all relate to it. I’ve had fibromyalgia for over 20 years and ‘manage’ it reasonably well now.
    Recently my former doctor had me screaming from the cuff and he was going to put me on medication for high blood pressure but luckily I just happened to change to a new doctor and she was extremely considerate and gentle when she took my blood pressure hence no medication needed because I wasn’t in excruciating pain from the cuff. Is this another ploy by Big Pharma to sell medical products? Thank you all and thanks for alternate treatments too.

  25. My Mother is in the hospital and screams when her blood pressure is taken. The machines ARE the worst. She has refused to have it taken on her arm, but now having her blood pressure taken on her lower legs has started to casuse excruciating pain as well. I am trying to find out if there is any vitamin supplement or something one can do for this. I also hate getting my blood pressure taken (in fact I said it was the worst thing happening to me being in the hospital after giving birth). My Mother has a blood pressure cuff but most dr’s & nurses won’t “allow” them as they are not “accurate”. I say to them “Oh well, this is how she will get her blood pressure taken or it won’t be taken at all!” By the way, both my Mother and I have high tolerance for pain. She gave birth 11 times with no epidural and I twice with no epidural or pain relief. So, us not “tolerating pain” is not the reason why the the extreme pain when having our blood pressure taken.
    I am curious of switching to a gluten free diet has any effect on this pain from a blood pressure cuff. Anyone?

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