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Pipetting Pains: How to Reduce Strain and Prevent Repetitive Motion Injury

Scientist with repetitive motion injury rubs hands together in pain

Research labs are like Olympic villages: global communities working together to solve problems and drive innovation. Science is competitive and demands excellence. Much like elite sport, the culture of the scientific field is one where people push themselves at all costs. This can have potentially serious consequences. In fact, between 25-35% of all lab personnel are unwilling to disclose a workplace injury. Plungers are the largest complaint1, with 90% of technicians experiencing pain after 60 minutes of continuous use.

The thumb is a major source of pipetting injuries. Hand and elbow pain is also prevalent. Pipetting causes the thumb to act as a mobilizing and stabilizing structure from an unstable position. The strain on lab workers using traditional plungers can reach unacceptable levels, and this only increases with age.

So, what can be done to stop chronic pain related to lab work?

Many essential research tools and processes can cause strain, which makes laboratory worker self care particularly important. See helpful tips to reduce stress and fatigue below.


Top Three Laboratory Worker Self Care Ideas:      

1. Participate in Strength Training and Stretching.

Outside of the walls of a research facility, strength training is a healthy form of lab worker stress relief and a helpful way to prevent future injuries. Studies have shown strength training focused on the neck, arms and back is effective at both treating and preventing discomfort — benefits which become more important with age.

Activities such as yoga, weightlifting and cardio will not only lower the risk of injury, but will also improve your outlook and performance.

Some of the elements of strength training can also be incorporated into your lab exercises. For example, take time to occasionally stop and stretch. Changing positions or functions helps reduce the kind of repetitive motion pains which often lead to bigger issues.


2. Use Proper Body Mechanics.

The University of Pittsburgh recommends maintaining a neutral comfortable position for your neck, arms and wrist at all times when pipetting2. It is also recommended to take a two-minute break for every 20 minutes of pipetting. In addition, remember to: 

  • Sit so that your back and feet are fully supported.
  • Minimize all twisting and rotating, and alternate hands, if you are able.
  • Use as light of a touch as possible when operating the plunger, and use low ejection-force tools.
  • Use an electronic pipettor whenever possible.


3. Get the Right Lab Tools.

MIDSCI has strain-reducing pipettes for every budget that will help with muscle fatigue, including:

  • Alphapette Single Channel Pipettors – Our ultra-lightweight design reduces arm strain and offers the lowest ejection force available, at 2.2 kg. The plunger position has also been modified to give the thumb more stability. See Item
  • Alphapette Multi-Channel – This pipettor has the same features as the single channel, with one big advantage: its unique tip-ejecting design means force is only on two tips at a time. See Item
  • E-pipettes – Electronic pipettors are recommended as the gold standard for reducing the strain of repetitive motion on lab users. See Item
  • Capp Pipettes – Specifically designed for 384 pipetting! Faster, more accurate and less strain for pipetting 16 or 64 wells at a time. See Item
  • Machine – Looking for large scale, but don’t need a robot? Check out the Precision Plus Series Pipettors which can load one plate in seconds. This machine is the ultimate science lab stress reliever. See Item


MIDSCI Can Help Reduce Strain from Pipetting and Repetitive Motion

Save time and frustration by ordering your laboratory equipment with MIDSCI. We are large enough to deliver a wide range of pipettors and small enough to care for these tools — before and after delivery. We help scientific researchers find industry-leading equipment and supplies to help with everyday issues. And we have a customer service team staffed with product experts to make sure you feel confident in your purchase.

Lab workers self care is critically important. Just like having the right tools for the task at hand.

Looking for pipettors and other equipment to help provide science lab stress relief? Submit a contact form online, or call us toll-free at 1 (800) 227-9997. You can also send an email to


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Works Cited

  1. David G, Buckle P., Appl Ergon. 1997 Aug;28(4):257-62. doi: 10.1016/s0003-6870(97)00002-1, PMID: 9414365
  2. University of Pittsburgh, Environmental Health and Safety Department


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