Why “W” Sitting is a Bad Thing
Why does your physical therapist always tell your child to fix their legs? Because “W” sitting is a big NO-NO!
There are many things to consider with “W” sitting.
How does it affect your child’s development? Kids who “W” sit have decreased coordination and balance and delayed in developmental skills. When muscles are permanently shortened they impair your child’s coordination, balance and development of gross motor skills. With the wider base of support provided by sitting in this position, children do not challenge their balance and do not learn to cross midline. Crossing midline is important for development of bilateral coordination as well as hand dominance.
How does “W” sitting affect your child’s bony structure and muscle length? Kids who “W” sit develop shortening of their hip abductors, hip internal rotators, hamstrings, and heelcords. Kids who are already susceptible to muscle shortening need to take extra care to avoid this position that reinforces the shortened muscles. Kids who “W” sit are also at risk of hip dislocation, knee problems due to shear forces placed through the knee in this position and ankle issues due to the ankles being placed in external rotation. These children are also more likely to develop flatfootedness.
How does “W” sitting affect your child’s core strength? Kids who “W” sit do not develop the core strength and postural control that other children do. This is due to the fact that they lock in the boy structure through the hips and pelvis, and children do not have to engage their core muscles. The “W” position provides a wide base of support and does not challenge the child to weight shift or rotate their truck therefore decreasing the need to work on postural control and stability.
Special considerations: Kids with low muscle tone need to avoid “W” sitting in order to encourage recruitment of abdominal muscles. Kids with hypotonia, down syndrome, and Prader Willi Syndrome need to take extra caution. Kids with cerebral palsy or other neuromuscular conditions that demonstrate spasticity or increased muscle tone need to avoid “W” sitting as it feeds into the abnormal movement patterns. Kids with hip dysplasia need to avoid “W” sitting as it places the hip joint in a maximal internal rotation which does not drive the hip into the socket.
Consistency is the KEY to Success! Make sure you remind your child to fix their legs every time you see them sitting in a “W” position. If your child is going to preschool or school, make sure their teachers are aware of this posture and will because a team member in correcting their sitting. Give them options of sitting: criss cross, long sitting, or tailor sitting. If your child is a “W” sitter and you cannot break this, talk to your physician about physical therapy services. Your physical therapist can assist in exercises to lengthen muscles, strengthen core muscles and improve postural stability, work on balance and coordination to improve the overall development of your child.