What is Repetitive Strain Injury?
Repetitive Stress Injury (RSI) is a term used to describe pain or injury from repetitive movements or overuse of an instrument. This condition is also commonly known as Receptive Strain Injury and Occupational Overuse Syndrome (OOS). Long hours of pipetting and lab work can lead to RSI if proper preventative steps are not taken. Educate yourself in RSI so that you can reduce your chances of experiencing RSI in the future.
What are the Signs of Repetitive Strain Injury?
Pain from RSI can be felt in the muscles, nerves, and/or tendons due to inflammation. The signs of RSI can range from soreness or a simple tingling sensation, all the way up to lack of physical strength. RSI is treatable in the early stages if properly diagnosed but chronic RSI is far more difficult to cure. If RSI is ignored, it can lead to permanent nerve damage and/or carpal tunnel syndrome.
How do I Avoid Repetitive Strain Injury?
The best way to avoid RSI when working in the lab is to perform proper pipetting technique, take frequent breaks, and always keep your extremities in a relaxed position. When working at the lab bench, sit or stand in an ergonomic position (don’t hunch over). Try to keep your arm and shoulder in a neutral position as much as possible and maintain good posture. Take breaks every 20-30 minutes and stretch occasionally. The speed at which you work can also play a role in RSI.
Benefits of Ergonomic Pipetting
The equipment used in the lab is often the culprit of RSI. Using heavy pipettes or those with stiff plunger buttons, will greatly increase your chances of RSI. We suggest using pipettes that are lightweight and have a soft and smooth plunger stroke. You should also consider the force at which you mount and eject pipette tips. Do not use excessive force when mounting the tips because that will require additional force when ejecting/removing them after use. Most people aren’t aware that one of the least ergonomic movements during pipetting is the act of tip mounting and ejection.
RSI is a serious condition that can worsen over time. These types of injuries should not be taken lightly. Educate your fellow lab members to watch for early signs of RSI and make an educated decision when selecting pipettes for your lab. If you need help choosing, or simply want more information, contact one of our Pipette Enthusiasts for advice.