Tips for Buying Truly Ergonomic Loupes
Excessive neck/head tilt is the main cause of clinicians’ neck pain. Holding any body part out of balance stresses the supporting muscles and skeletal structure. Doing this for days and years on end can lead to excruciating pain and irreparable injury. Stress on the neck and spine increases exponentially if a person holds their neck forward more than 20 degrees¹. Therefore, your loupes should allow you to work comfortably and effectively with a neck tilt of fewer than 20 degrees.
All manufacturers claim that their loupes are ergonomic because most loupes can help users work with improved lower back postures, but many of those loupes are the main cause of chronic neck pain/injuries, forcing users to excessively tilt their heads. The declination angle of loupes is closely related to the head tilt angle, but the definition of the declination angle used by various manufacturers is not the same ². Therefore, measuring the head tilt angle with loupes is the only way to prove the manufacturer’s claims.
There are three steps in buying truly ergonomic loupes:
Step 1: Preparing — Establish Basic Requirements
- Determine your safe working neck posture by finding your head tilt angle which should be less than 20 degrees (Figure #1)
- Measure your working distance (from the nose bridge to the working site) with your safe working neck posture (see Figure #2)
- Determine the magnification power based on your working distance – the longer working distance requires higher magnification power due to the distance effect.
- Think about the requirements of frames – stable for loupes and custom nose pads for your special facial features such as nose height, cheekbone, and eyelashes.
Figure 1: The head tilt angle should be less than 20 degrees for the safe working neck posture
Figure 2: The ergonomic working distance requires the safe working neck posture
Step 2: Buying — Find Loupes Which You Believe Meet Basic requirements
- Check that loupes can support your neck posture: essential to protect your neck
- Check that frames are stable: essential to maintain alignments of TTL (through-the-lens) loupes
- Check that custom nose pads are available for your facial features: essential to wear comfortably
- Purchase loupes from a manufacturer which you believe meets your basic requirements
- Price may be important, but it is noted that there is a significant hidden cost associated with non-ergonomic loupes and updating Eyeglass Rx ³
Step 3: Verifying — Measure Your Head Tilt Angle with Loupes
- As soon as you receive loupes you ordered, please measure your head tilt angle by using two side view photos as shown in Figure 3.
- If the head tilt angle is larger than 20 degrees, you should ask the manufacturer to remount loupes so that your head tilt is less than 20 degrees or if you believe that the manufacturer cannot make loupes that support your desirable head tilt angle, you should return loupes for refund. Note: most loupe manufactures have a 45 day trial period. Check their return policy. Here is ours.
Figure 3: Examples of measuring head tilt angle with various loupes – head tilt angle of fewer than 20 degrees is required for the safe working neck posture.
In order to purchase ergonomic loupes, we should know the safe working neck posture / safe head tilt and the method for measuring the head tilt angle with loupes. In the graphic below we review simple methods for finding safe neck posture and head tilt angle with loupes below.
Finding Safe Working Neck Posture to Measure Working Distance – Figure 1 shows how to find your safe working neck posture. First, find the neutral neck posture and tilt your head by less than 20 degrees. This is your safe working neck posture.
Figure 2 shows a method for measuring your working distance which will be used for assembling your ergonomic loupes.
Using your working distance, you can decide the magnification power of your 1st loupes:
- If the working distance is less than 15 inches, 2.5x will be a good choice.
- If the working distance is about 16 inches to 18 inches, 3.0x or 3.5x may be selected.
- If the working distance is larger than 19, 3.5x should be selected.
If you want to buy ergonomic loupes because you have been experiencing the chronic neck pain with your current loupes, you should measure your working distance with your current loupes and then measure the working distance with a safe working neck posture without wearing any loupes. The difference between the working distance with your current loupes and the working distance with the safe working neck posture may be around 3 inches.
If you replace your current loupes with ergonomic loupes, the magnification power of ergonomic loupes should be one step higher than your current loupes due to the increased working distance
Finding the Head Tilt Angle with the Loupes You Just Received
Since the declination angle can vary due to working habits, you should measure your head tilt angle with new loupes by using two side view photos. Figure 3 shows examples for measuring the head tilt angle with various loupes by using two side view photos. To make the alignment of two photos, a reference object such as window frame, corner of wall, and any other objects may be included
Visit our website at SurgiTel.com/News to view our October 2019 ErgoPractice eNews where we describe how to measure head tilt in greater detail. Your local SurgiTel representative can provide free consultations. You can look up your local representative at SurgiTel.com/MyRep or schedule an appointment here surgitel.com/make-an-appointment.
- Valachi, Bethany. Practice Dentistry Pain-Free. Portland, Oregon: Posturedontics Press, 2008. https://posturedontics.com/
- Chang, BJ, The Truth about Declination Angle, ErgoPractice News, June 2020
- Chang, BJ, The hidden cost of Non-ergonomic Loupes and Cool/Blue-Tinted LED Headlights, ErgoPractice News, March 2021