Microscope work usually involves prolonged sitting, high visual demands and repetitive adjustment of microscope controls. Common symptoms from microscope use may include eyestrain, sore hands from maneuvering the controls and sore necks and shoulders from awkward sitting postures. The following suggestions may eliminate ergonomic risk factors at the microscope.
To reduce repetition:
- Limit microscope use to no more than 5 hours per day.
- Take frequent stretch breaks and rotate tasks as often as possible.
- Alternate using the right and left hands when making adjustments on the microscope.
To reduce awkward postures:
Avoid jutting your chin forward or bending your neck down when using the microscope. Adjust the height of the chair, workbench or microscope instead. Adjust your chair height so that your thighs are horizontal or slanted slightly down, your back is supported and your feet are flat on floor. Use a footrest if your feet do not touch the floor. Leaning or resting on the foot rings can cut off circulation in the back of your thighs.
- Raise, incline and move microscopes as close as possible to keep your head upright. Use sturdy items to raise the microscope, if needed, such as stackable risers or an adjustable monitor riser. An empty 2-inch binder can be used to angle the microscope forward. Secure the microscope to the binder with Q-Brace straps.
- Use microscope adapters to promote balanced head, neck, shoulder and arm postures.
- Use forearm rests to support your forearms while using adjustment knobs or hand tools to work with specimens under the microscope. This helps relieve fatigue and strain.
- Have an eye exam if you are experiencing any visual difficulty. Wear glasses if needed.
- Use television systems to eliminate the use of binocular eyepieces when appropriate.
- Make sure there is adequate room under the work surface to pull the chair in as close as possible to the work task.
- Open or remove cabinet doors to place your feet inside to help get closer to your work.
- Work with elbows close to the body and have them bent as close to a 90-degree angle as possible
- Work with wrists in a straight, neutral position.
- Tilt storage bins toward you to reduce using awkward wrist postures while reaching for the supplies.
To reduce force
- Enlarge your small hand tools such as forceps and dissecting needles by placing cylindrical foam around them. This helps reduce the pinch force.
- Use locking mechanisms or other adaptive aides to reduce sustained force which using your forceps.
- Watch the way you hold your small tools. Make simple tool modifications if you are not keeping your wrist straight.
To reduce contact stress:
- Avoid resting forearms on sharp edges. Apply desk edge padding to the front edge of the desk.
- Use forearm supports or place a lab notebook along the sides of the microscope base to avoid resting on the edge of the base.
- Use adjustable chairs with a footrest. Leaning or resting on the foot rings can cut off circulation in the back of your thighs.
To reduce eyestrain:
- Blink often, closing the eyelids completely, to keep your eyes moist.
- Focus on a distant object - at least 20 feet away – every 15 minutes or so. This will give the muscles in your eyes a rest.
- Cup your hands and place them gently over your closed eyes for a minute to rest them from the light.
- Don’t touch or rub your eyes.