Even though it is comfortable, it may be harmful to the body. We talk about the position known as “w sitting”, which is basically when children (and some adults) sit with their knees bent backwards, putting their legs to the side of their hips, forming a “W”.
According to American physical therapist Jean McNamara, this position is not suitable for everyone. “Many typically developing children adopt this position during play, but every parent should be aware that excessive use of this position during the growing years can lead to future orthopedic problems,” he said.
The professional indicated that children do not even realize when they take this position. “They don’t want to worry about keeping their balance when they’re concentrating on a toy,” he said, adding that children who often sit in “W” do so because this position allows them to see their toys in front of them without their legs “interrupting” in front of them.
This allows you to play with the toys in front of you, but it doesn’t allow you to rotate the trunk,” says the specialist.
Marta Pérez Seco, physiotherapist at the Fisio MiniMi centre for integrated child and women’s care in Spain, points out that in this posture, “the hips are rotated inwards, supporting the entire inner part, including the knees, while the ankles remain in external rotation.
If you looked just above, you would see a kind of W formed by his legs and buttocks. It’s a way of increasing the base of support and lowering the center of gravity, so it gives them more stability to play with.
He clarified this position has several problems:
1. This affects motor development: “By limiting trunk rotations and side-to-side load transfers, it makes it more difficult to reach, as well as the occurrence of straightening and balancing reactions, and the passing of the midline of the upper extremities,” the therapist says.
2. The hip rotation: “By maintaining this position, the inside of the legs receive excessive pressure. Furthermore, it shortens the stabilizing muscles of the pelvis and the hip, thus promoting contractures at this level and altering the gait,” says the specialist.
3. Bad development of the “central” or core muscles: She explains that “the abdominal and back muscles are fundamental for good posture and the development of movement. On the other hand, it will compensate with other muscle groups that should not perform other functions”.
4. Rotation of the knees and ankles: ” This excessive pressure also leads to contractures in the muscles of these joints. This can lead to pain later on, including low-back pain. Also, studies suggest that W sitting position in preschool children may increase the predisposition to flatfoot,” he says.
McNamara says this position is especially contraindicated for children with orthopedic problems, however minor. “It can predispose a child to hip dislocation, so if there is a history of hip dysplasia, or a concern has been raised in the past, this position should be avoided,” she says.
” If there is muscle tension, sitting on W’s can aggravate it. This position places the hamstrings, hip abductors, internal rotors, and heel tendons in an extremely short range. If a child is prone to tension or contractions, encourage him to sit differently,” he says.
What do you do if you see your child sitting on “W”?
Try to get him to sit in several positions. Watch how he got there, got out, and what he needed to balance.
“The most effective (and easiest) way to avoid a problem with W sitting position is to keep it from becoming a habit in the first place. Anticipate and catch the child before it becomes a habit. Children should be placed and taught to assume alternative positions,” says McNamara. Correct his posture when he’s sitting that way. and show him other more comfortable ones.
She agrees that we must offer an alternative: “you can sit sideways, with your legs crossed (preztel sitting or sitting “like an Indian”), with your legs stretched out in front of you, on a floor.
“The W sitting position is not good in any case. If the child always adopts this position and is not comfortable in any other, it may mean that he has a musculature problem, or ‘simply’ that he does not have a well-developed central musculature. For this reason, it is even more important to provide means for this position,” the physiotherapist adds.
You can also reinforce good positions by congratulating children when they are sitting correctly. And if they are on W sitting, help them to adopt a healthier posture.