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Author Topic: RSI sucks
Xanthine

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Icon 1 posted June 06, 2004 17:46      Profile for Xanthine     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Apologies for the incoming rant.

So I joined a lab. A crystallography lab. Unfortunately for my right hand, before I can do any crystallography I have to grow crystals, and that means setting up 4X6 well tray after 4X6 well tray of various mother liquors and hanging little drops of RNA over the wells to see which conditions will cause the RNA to crystallize into something nice and easy to handle (we'll get to nicely diffracting later...:/). Needless to say, this involves lots of measuring and dispensing of liquids, and since I only have about half a milliliter of liquid per well and the conditions I'm playing wiht consist of at least three ingredients (some sort of salt, polyethylene glycol aka PEG, and water) the volumes I need to measure out are small. Consequently, I've been using these things (sorry about the stupid labels...it's the only pic I could find with the type and size I use). I noticed as an undergrad that using pipets a lot tends to hurt me, and ever since I've just been sucking it up, but goddamit I made that batch of RNA on Tuesday and by yesterday afternoon it was all gone. All hung up in little drops over the wells on about eleven or so trays. And every single fscking well contains fscking PEG. Pipetting PEG, especially at the higher molecular weights (which my blasted RNA likes) is like pipetting corn syrup. It takes force to get the full volume out of the pipet tips, which puts more strain on my pathetic hand.

So, to come around to my point: my right wrist hurts. It began bothering me after work not long after I joined the lab, but until Friday, it was nothing remarkable. Friday evening, I felt like a nail was being driven through the joint. Yesterday and today I've had to wrap myself up in an ACE bandage just to grip things without whimpering. When my boss asked what happened, I told him I hurt myself at aikido (not exactly a lie...I'm not sure aikido is helping or hurting). Bad Xanthine, I know, but teling the truth would have openend a can of worms that, as a new member, I'm not all that eager to dive into. Ergonomic pipets cost money I'm not sure we have. We can't even afford a tech. My boss could barely scrape enough together to take me on, and I'm glad I did. And then I go ahead and lame one of my paws. Stupid lab rat.

Ice sorta helps. The most frustrating part of this, other than the fact that braking and changing gears on my bike hurts, is my hands and wrists really aren't as weak as they're behaving. I'm notoriously flexible, and I can traverse the wall at the engineering building twice without resting, and you can't do that unless you've got some strength in your gripping muscles.

Anyone else in agony out there?

--------------------
And it's one, two, three / On the wrong side of the lee / What were you meant for? / What were you meant for?
- The Decemberists

Posts: 7670 | From: the lab | Registered: Mar 2001  |  IP: Logged
The Famous Druid

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Icon 1 posted June 06, 2004 18:11      Profile for The Famous Druid     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
I had quite a bad bout of it a year or so ago, it's almost cleared up now, but still not 100%

I found propping the offending arm on a pillow at night helped enormously, as did heat rub, the super-hot kind. Cold made it far worse, so it's obviously not the same kind you've got.

The advice I've had is that you really, really, really, really need to stop doing anything that makes it worse. If that means taking a break from the lab, do it. It won't clear up quickly, but if you're really strict with yourself, and don't just go back into your old bad habits the moment it starts to feel better, it will heal eventually.

Oh, and don't forget the legalities. See a doctor, make sure you leave a clear paper trail. Insurance companies are right bastards, and will try to weasel out of their responsibilities if you let them.

As for the ergonomic lab gear, you may well find the university will spring for this from their OH&S budget, it's worth a try.

--------------------
If you watch 'The History Of NASA' backwards, it's about a space agency that has no manned spaceflight capability, then does low-orbit flights, then lands on the Moon.

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Snaggy

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Icon 9 posted June 06, 2004 20:24      Profile for Snaggy   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Ouch Xan, I feel for you. I had really bad RSI, (still do, RSI never sleeps) It was a nightmare and I was in agony many many days.

What really helped me was moving to a Wacom pen.
I'd recommend that to anyone suffering from mouse related RSI.

And I also try to avoid doing as many "drag and drops."

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dragonman97

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Icon 1 posted June 06, 2004 20:55      Profile for dragonman97   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Xanthine - sorry to hear about that...RSI is never fun to deal with :-/.

Snaggy: I was wondering - how well can one use a Wacom as a replacement to a mouse for everyday use that doesn't involve graphics? Mousing kills me at times, and I could stand to rid myself of that plague, but unfortunately I admin & devel on Windows at work, so I'm rather chained to having a very functional pointing device (though I use the kbd *a lot* instead).

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There are three things you can be sure of in life: Death, taxes, and reading about fake illnesses online...

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Snaggy

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Icon 1 posted June 06, 2004 21:38      Profile for Snaggy   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Hi dragon! Most of what I do isn't graphics related and I find the tablet is great. (clicking dragging selecting, etc...)
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dragonman97

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Icon 1 posted June 06, 2004 21:44      Profile for dragonman97   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
quote:
Originally posted by Snaggy:
Hi dragon! Most of what I do isn't graphics related and I find the tablet is great. (clicking dragging selecting, etc...)

Hmm...the only problem I envision is my boss killing me [Razz] . Seriously - if I buy one with my own money, he'll probably give me no end of crap about it. He has no idea, as he can't type, so he'll never use his computer like I do and get RSI.

So I guess I'm wondering - I've played with a Wacom or two at the Apple store, and it's always been in the drawing mode, in which you're hovering about the pad when moving about. Is this how one uses it for non-drawing purposes, or does it make contact? Something about it just seems disconcerting. My dad's bought a cheap (non-Wacom) USB tablet some time ago for no terribly good reason - I'll have to ask him if I can borrow it for a bit and try it out. I imagine this might be quite a difference, and take a bit of time to adjust to, but if it helps, all the better. Right now, I'm suffering very mildly from RSI issues, so I'd rather that it doesn't get worse.

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There are three things you can be sure of in life: Death, taxes, and reading about fake illnesses online...

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Elvermere
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Icon 1 posted June 06, 2004 23:02      Profile for Elvermere     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
I'm sorry to hear about your RSI Xanthine. Thank god I didn't go into a career in Molec. Biol (like I was going to).

I guess if you don't want to raise a stink with your boss over OHS, try getting him to fork our for something similar to THIS

Good luck (and go and see a physio!)

--------------------
Duct Tape is like the force.
It has a light side and a dark side and it holds the universe together.

Posts: 113 | From: Perth, West AU | Registered: Nov 2003  |  IP: Logged
DigitalBill

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Icon 1 posted June 06, 2004 23:22      Profile for DigitalBill   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
quote:
Originally posted by dragonman97:
I was wondering - how well can one use a Wacom as a replacement to a mouse for everyday use that doesn't involve graphics? Mousing kills me at times, and I could stand to rid myself of that plague, but unfortunately I admin & devel on Windows at work, so I'm rather chained to having a very functional pointing device (though I use the kbd *a lot* instead).

Well, I'm not Snaggy, but I'll throw in my too scents [Wink]

I've used prettymuch every pointing device known, and recently settled back into mouse mode, but with a Logitech Wireless (RF, not BT) that's a little bigger than your average mouse, so maybe it provides a little better resting place for the hand, ergonomically.

Before that I had switched to a Kensington trackball, which really helped my wrist (in fact, I think just taking the break from a mouse for a year did the trick). Now it seems to me that there are lots of trackball alternatives, and most are USB and only require special drivers for the multitude of buttons they usually sport.

Now as to the Wacom, most tablets have 2 different modes, relative and absolute. Relative tracks like a mouse (ie pick it up from the edge and move it and continue) and absolute maps an image of the screen to the active space of the pad so the lower right is the lower right of the screen and so on. That can get kinda confusing on a dual monitor.

That said, I've seen pro artists at work (dropping name: Burt Munroy), and they never switch from pad to mouse and back, they're just using the tablet full time. Granted, most of them have a pad that's larger that 4x5 (like a Graphire II). I think it's just a function of practice. I'm finally starting to get good enough with mine that I can use it in Photoshop, but I still go back to the mouse for heavy 'command' work.

Don't know if that helps...

=DB

... if practice makes perfect, does malpractice make malperfect?

--------------------
I've found life is so much better in the cartoon universe!
"No power in the 'Verse can stop us!"

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nekomatic
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Icon 4 posted June 07, 2004 01:34      Profile for nekomatic     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
One of my PhD colleagues got carpal tunnel so bad she had to have her wrists operated on [Eek!]

Please do something about it! I don't know whether your best option might be an electronic air-displacement pipette, a multichannel pipette or a repeating positive-displacement pipette but there's bound to be something that will help, and there's bound to be information out there because you're certainly not the only one to have hit this problem. Check out all the info you can find on RSI and how to minimise any problems in the short term.

A better pipettor (sorry) will come in a little more expensive than the ordinary versions, but how much do you spend on mol bio reagents in a month? As Druid points out you may be able to get it paid for as an occupational health necessity, or even (if the condition threatens to deteriorate) a disability adaptation type thing? Think of the other arguments to justify the outlay - an electronic pipette covers a wider range than a manual one, for example, or a multichannel one will make you and others in the lab more productive, as well as freeing up the one you were previously using for someone else. Remember also you can get these things from used lab kit suppliers, or even on eBay...

I'm sure you should talk to your supervisor about it asap - having taken you on, it's in his interest that you should continue to work happily and safely, and he may be aware of some of the options. As I said, it's not a new problem. Good luck [thumbsup]

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nekomatic
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Icon 1 posted June 07, 2004 04:38      Profile for nekomatic     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Holy marketing gimmick coincidences, Labrat!

http://www.thermo.com/eThermo/CDA/Forms/formView/1%2C1530%2C4809%2C00.html

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quantumfluff
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Icon 1 posted June 07, 2004 06:56      Profile for quantumfluff     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
I had really bad wrist pain for a while, but I've been clear for about 2 years now. I do three things.

I put a GoldTouch keyboard on all of my machines.

I use my OLD style logitech trackball that they don't make any more (the newer one hurts) or a Contour Design Perfit mouse. Contour design sells mice in a variety of sizes, so you pick one that fits your hand.

The moment any pain starts I wear a stiff wrist brace 24x7 for a week.

Years before, I bought a *really expensive* desk chair to ease my back pain.

All of these options I pay for out of my pocket, as well as the desktop machine I use for work. I'm old fashioned, in that I believe a tradesman should own their own tools. I buy what makes me most productive, and use that productivity as insurance against being laid off. The comfort I get from ergnomic tools is insurance against being a veg in my old age.

Perhaps owning your own pipettes may be the best solution. It may seem expensive now, but it's a lot less expensive than not being able to work.

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Xanthine

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Icon 1 posted June 07, 2004 18:59      Profile for Xanthine     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Dude, my own set of pipettors would cost about as much as I get paid each month. Labs are communes. You're issued a set that's yours until you leave, and then someone new comes in, cleans them out, changes out the tape and makes them theirs.

I've thought about multi-channels but crystaqllography plates aren't really set up to use them. Multichannels are for 8x12, 96 well plates (and they work very well for that purposes...so well I felt like I was commiting a sin of some kind the first time I used one). Linbro plates are 4X6, 24 well plates and unfortunately the distance between the wells is too wide to hack it with a multichannel. A repeater would be nice and I'm gonna harass my boss about it when he gets back from Utah.

One thing I started doing last week that helps a lot is making 2 or 3x stocks of the solutions I use most frequently. This allows me to dispense the same amount in each well, reducing error, saves me the task of dispensing different amounts of water into each well, and also dilutes the PEG, making it much, much easier to deal with. However, for reasons I won't go into, I can't do this for every tray. :/

Today wasn't so bad. When I woke up this morning I could make and eaty breakfast without the ACE bandage, though I brought the thing along just in case. All I've been doing is brew up a new RNA stock and that's relatively easy. I'll set ONE tray (so help me God, it will only be one) today and do the rest tomorrow.

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Orpheus
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Icon 1 posted June 07, 2004 19:41      Profile for Orpheus     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Ouch sorry to hear about your RSI woes, don't really have any advice for ya but to take breaks often during the activity responsible. Hope it clears up for you, and do try and do something about it now before more drastic measures are required.

And good luck with your crystals!! I'll do an extra crystal growing mojo dance for you under the next full moon with a purple frog that barks. [Wink]

--------------------
my cats make me crazy

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Xanthine

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Icon 1 posted June 07, 2004 20:08      Profile for Xanthine     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Thanks Orpheus. That might just do the trick. There's a reason why my boss has "alchemy" written under the number on his office door. [Roll Eyes]
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littlefish
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Icon 1 posted June 08, 2004 01:38      Profile for littlefish   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
I feel for you X. I'm practicing the dark arts myself here. I'm trying to press self-supporting catalyst discs in a KBr die that are thin enough to let the IR through, but fat enough so that they don't crumble. As soon as I think of a suitable sacrifice to the IR gods, something is gonna die.
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Tut-an-Geek

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Icon 1 posted June 08, 2004 04:02      Profile for Tut-an-Geek   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
I'm sorry, Xanthine [Frown]

To any interested in ergonomic input devices: I use a Kensington Expert Mouse Trackball and would recommend it to anyone

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Xanthine

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Icon 1 posted June 08, 2004 09:08      Profile for Xanthine     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
quote:
Originally posted by littlefish:
I feel for you X. I'm practicing the dark arts myself here. I'm trying to press self-supporting catalyst discs in a KBr die that are thin enough to let the IR through, but fat enough so that they don't crumble. As soon as I think of a suitable sacrifice to the IR gods, something is gonna die.

Heh. My boss came in last week and handed me a jar of stuff. "The ---- lab swears by this," he said, "and it's its own cryoprotectant. It wasn't in the kits but give it a shot. They also said 30 degrees works best."

So after we looked up the solubility in the CRC I made up a 1.5 M solution. And now I'm trying to coax it to grow crystals of ONE morphology.

I did relabel the jar "---- Lab Snake Oil". We'll see how he likes it when he gets back.

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nekomatic
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Icon 1 posted June 10, 2004 03:47      Profile for nekomatic     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
quote:
Originally posted by Xanthine:
A repeater would be nice and I'm gonna harass my boss about it when he gets back from Utah.

Make sure you talk him into an electronic one - as well as continuous volume adjustment which many manuals don't have, you get a mode where you can press the button twice for the first two dispenses, then it continues to dispense by itself at the same time interval until it runs out or you tell it to stop. Like you say, this seems wrong [Wink]

I've also seen funky multis where the tip spacing is adjustable by pulling a knob a bit like an organ stop - they're usually made for reformatting between 96 and 384-well plates but one rep told us they could do custom versions with fewer tips at a wider spacing if we wanted...

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