Archaeologists depend on our wrists, among many of our other body parts, every day at our jobs. Unfortunately, our wrists are one of our joints that is highly in danger of suffering a repetitive strain injury. In general, repetitive strain injuries are some of the most common occupational injuries in the United States today.
Hand and wrist injuries may be affected by handedness—a four-month study of almost 2,500 wrist injuries in Northern Ireland indicated that right-handed people injured their right wrists 55% of the time, and left-handed people injured their left wrists 58% of the time.
The danger to our wrists depends on the type of work we are doing and the type of soil in which we are working. My wrists are in a lot less danger when I’m excavating sand in tenth-of-a-foot levels at Fort Michilimackinac than they were when I was excavating hard-packed clay in central Illinois, where I experienced wrist pain.
David Procyshyn teaches an excellent “5-Minute Stretching Routine for the Wrists.” I would recommend this stretching routine before and after every workday in the field; it takes only five minutes to care for a part of the body that is so vital to our occupation (passion!). You could even do the routine together as a crew to build camaraderie!
Making a tight fist and then slowly and conscientiously rotating your wrists nine times clockwise and then nine times counterclockwise will help strengthen them as well. Standing side stretches are also great for the wrists, as well as the sides.
If you practice yoga regularly on your own, there are poses that are great for strengthening your wrists. Each should be held for five full breaths once you are into the final posture (which might take several preparatory poses to achieve!). Of course, if at any time you feel pain, you should stop!
If you practice yoga at a Beginner Level, Adho Mukha Svanasana, or Downward-Facing Dog, is a great wrist-strengthening pose that everyone can start with. This is a staple in any yoga practice, so you may have been strengthening your wrists already without even realizing it!
If you practice yoga at an Intermediate level, you can try Purvottanasana, or Upward Plank Pose. I love the effect this pose has on my wrists, but I find it can be hard on my knees, so proceed with caution!
You might also want to try Vasisthasana, or Side Plank Pose. Some days, I can do different variations of this pose with ease, but other days, my wrists aren’t yet strong enough to maintain the pose.
If you practice yoga at an Advanced level, you might want to try Eka Pada Koundinyanasana II, or Pose Dedicated to the Sage Koundinya II. This pose is still beyond my skill level.
But remember, always consult your own health care professional for your individual health questions and concerns!