Sitting or standing for hours on end, bent over a microscope eyepiece is not an activity for which the body is well adapted. Poor posture and awkward positioning of the head, neck, shoulders, back, arms and wrists are the primary risk factors for musculoskeletal problems that can affect microscope users.
The following are some basic guidelines for achieving and maintaining neutral body posture and reducing the risks of developing health problems while using a microscope:
- try to avoid using a microscope for long periods in the day - spread usage out over the day, avoiding long uninterrupted periods of usage; short rest breaks (‘micro breaks’) should be taken every 20 minutes during continual usage
- to maintain an upright posture, don’t lean forward to look through the microscope - instead, the position of the chair and/or microscope should be adjusted so that the user’s back is straight, the head is upright and eyes are looking directly into the eyepiece. Eyepieces should be in line with, or even extended over, the edge of the bench. There should be adequate space under the bench so that the user can pull the chair in close enough to the microscope so that their back is straight and supported by the chair backrest
- upper arms/elbows should be close to the body so that they are not outstretched and forearms should be supported where possible - if the latter is not feasible, regular rest breaks should then be taken
- feet should rest firmly on the floor or on a footrest, and even pressure should be applied by the chair to the backs of the thighs - if footrests are not available, footrings on laboratory chairs can be used but should be adjusted so that feet are supported, legs are not hanging and the back is supported by the chair backrest