Why does my child’s physical therapist always tell my child to “fix your legs”? That’s because W sitting can cause long term problems for your child.
What is W Sitting? W sitting is a sitting position that involves a child sitting on their bottom with their knees bent and feet behind them. This sitting position is called W sitting because the shape of the child’s legs makes a W.
Why Does My Child W Sit? Many times children with lower muscle tone or weak core muscles will prefer to sit in a W sitting position because their muscles do not have to work as hard to keep them up. In a W sitting position, a child relies on the stability of their bones and joints instead of their muscles.
How Does W Sitting Affect My Child’s Development? W sitting provides children with a wider base of support, but does not challenge the child to work on engaging core musculature and work on postural control. This can lead to decreased core strength and many times kids who W sit demonstrate decreased coordination, balance, and delayed motor skills. This position also limits trunk rotation and the child is not able to shift their weight from side to side which can lead to delayed balance reactions and difficulty crossing midline. W sitting can also lead to musculoskeletal changes including shortening of hip adductors, hip internal rotators, hamstrings, and heelcords. W sitting can lead to hip, knee, and ankle pain due to the shear forces placed through the joints when in this position.
How Can We Correct W Sitting? Consistency is key when it comes to helping a child break the habit of W sitting. If you see your child sitting in a W sitting position, ask them to “fix their feet” and encourage them to sit in a different position. You can prompt your child to sit in a criss cross, long sitting, or side sitting position. If your child is a W sitter and they are having a hard time breaking the habit, talk to your physician about physical therapy services. Your physical therapist can assist in exercises to lengthen muscles, strengthen core muscles, improve postural stability, and work on balance and coordination in order to improve your child’s gross motor development.
Special Considerations. It is especially important for children with lower muscle tone to avoid sitting in a W position. Children with hypotonia, Down Syndrome, or other conditions that cause lower muscle tone need to take extra caution. Children with cerebral palsy and other neuromuscular conditions should also avoid W sitting because this position can feed into abnormal movement patterns. Children with hip dysplasia should not W sit because it puts the hip into maximal internal rotation and does not let the hip drive into the socket