Reports from laboratories across the UK indicate that concerns about the risks to scientists from Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI) are as high as ever. With industry demands for higher throughput and greater productivity, most scientists are spending many more hours per day pipetting. Such activity can lead to debilitating conditions such as Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, Lateral Epicondylitis or Thumb Tenosynovitis.
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS) is a disorder that can lead to permanent disability. Symptoms may include pain, weakness and/or numbness and tingling in the thumb-side of the hand. CTS can occur in the laboratory when a pipette is held so tightly that the tendons that operate your fingers swell and compress the median nerve where it passes through the carpal tunnel area. This problem can also be caused or worsened by the nerve being compressed when the wrist is bent.
Cubital Tunnel Syndrome occurs when the ulnar nerve (the “funny-bone” nerve) is compressed at the elbow – usually when the elbow is bent at 90 degrees or more. Resting the elbow on a hard bench top while pipetting for long periods of time is an excellent way to get Cubital Tunnel Syndrome.
Lateral Epicondylitis is the medical term for tennis elbow. Tennis elbow is common in the laboratory. It is caused by overstressing the muscle/tendon units that strengthen the wrist and fingers, and the symptoms include pain at the bony prominence of the elbow. If the tip rack is placed too far away whilst pipetting, the scientist has to fully extend his/her elbow, and often wrist, each time a tip is picked up, increasing the risk of this disorder. Poorly fitting pipette tips that require repeatedly pounding or rocking of the pipette shaft into the tip can compound the problem.
Thumb Tenosynovitis also know as deQervain’s Tenosynovitis, is one of the most common laboratory thumb injuries. A better name might be Pipettor’s Thumb. Repeatedly depressing a pipette plunger or tip ejection button may lead to over use of the muscle/tendon unit that puts the thumb into the “hitch-hike” position, thus causing this injury. If a thumb-operated pipette is used, choose one with low tip ejection and plunger forces, and minimal plunger stroke length.
Joint problems develop from excessive wear and tear on the joint surfaces. Clinical experience indicates that the joint most prone to wear and tear in the hand from pipetting is the carpometacarpal joint at the base of the thumb. Over time, the wearing of the joint can show up on x-ray as osteoarthritis or arthrosis of the joint.
The UK reports significant costs associated with work-related upper limb musculoskeletal disorders. Total injuries resulted in 5.5 million lost working days in Great Britain. The Health & Safety Executive estimated the cost of those injuries to be approximately £1.25 billion per year. Injuries to scientists from pipetting contribute to this.
A welcome relief from these risks can be found by using the Rainin range of LTS LiteTouch Tip Ejection System pipettes, which are available from Anachem. LTS pipette shaft & tips are a cylindrical shape rather than the conical shape of traditional pipettes. The change of shape significantly reduced pipetting forces and in combination with the electronic pipettes can reduce these forces by up to 95%. The LTS system also brings distinct advantages when using multichannel pipettes with easy tip loading and a perfect sealing system for ease of use and accuracy.
Read how other scientists are reducing their risk of pipetting injuries by using Rainin's new ergonomic pipettes with LTS™.
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