Analysis of the musculoskeletal loading of the thumb during pipetting - A pilot study

John Z. Wu, Erik W. Sinsel, Justin F. Shroyer, Christopher M. Warren, Daniel E. Welcome, Kristin D. Zhao, Kai Nan An, Frank L. Buczek

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


Previous epidemiological studies indicate that the use of thumb-push mechanical pipettes is associated with musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) in the hand. The goal of the current study was to analyze the loading in the muscle-tendon units in the thumb during pipetting. The hand is modeled as a multi-body linkage system and includes four fingers (index, long, ring, and little finger), a thumb, and a palm segment. Since the current study is focused on the thumb, the model includes only nine muscles attached to the thumb via tendons. The time-histories of joint angles and push force at the pipette plunger during pipetting were determined experimentally and used as model input; whereas forces in the muscle-tendon units in the thumb were calculated via an inverse dynamic approach combined with an optimization procedure. Results indicate that all nine muscles have force outputs during pipetting, and the maximal force was in the abductor pollicis brevis (APB). The ratio of the mean peak muscle force to the mean peak push force during the dispensing cycle was approximately 2.3, which is comparable to values observed in grasping tasks in the literature. The analysis method and results in the current study provide a mechanistic understanding of MSD risk factors associated with pipetting, and may be useful in guiding ergonomic designs for manual pipettes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)392-399
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Biomechanics
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jan 22 2014


  • Inverse dynamics
  • Modeling
  • Muscle-tendon force
  • Pipette
  • Thumb

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biophysics
  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine
  • Biomedical Engineering
  • Rehabilitation


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