Ever noticed how some children sit on their bottoms, with feet tucked under and knees bent at nearly 90 degrees and legs splayed out in the W-position? This position is secure and supports the trunk. The child feels safe and comfortable playing with a forward bias. But, do we realize that sitting like that can be detrimental to the longterm health of the child?
But, wait, do not get paranoid if he is doing it for short periods and not making it a habit. All children sit in the W-pose at some time or the other. “It is when they are not comfortable in other positions, or they sit like that for long periods that you need to understand what the problem is, as W-sitting may be indicative of other underlying problems”, says reputed pediatrician Dr.Anjali Shah.
The Negative Effects of “W-Sitting”
W-sitting may give rise to a host of issues like orthopedic abnormalities, delayed postural control and refined motor skill development. Prolonged W-sitting may put undue stress on the hip abductors, hamstrings and internal rotators. The heel cords are also strained. Muscles are often tightened and shortened. This condition is a precursor to imbalance, delayed fine motor skills and coordination. The restricted rotation of the hips may lead to the child developing ITB or Iliotibial band Syndrome in adulthood. This can affect running and walking activities and the tibial torsion may lead to inordinate stress on the knees and leg, causing pain.
When should you start to worry?
Sounds scary right? There is some cause for worry but please do not obsess about it. Children are resilient and are innately wired to find the positions best suited to them. So if the child below eight years sits in this position at times to play, it might signify a natural response that the child has to find greater postural stability without exerting core muscle strength.
It would be wise to consult a pediatrician and confirm the absence of any underlying joint hyper-mobility or other coordination and mental health issues. W-sitting and toe walking might be hidden symptoms of autism.
Coaxing child to unlearn W-sitting
If there are no medical issues that define the sitting position, do relax. It is not difficult to teach your child to modify posture.
- Make your toddler aware that he is sitting in the W-pose. Encourage him to cross his legs in front. Within a few weeks he will not need the prompt.
- Practice is the key as he needs to build flexibility and greater overall strength. I am sure he will also appreciate the extra playtime with you!
- Get him to exercise and stretch. In fact do it together, as it also helps you to bond. Teach him to twist his trunk to reach for toys that are kept just out of reach. Moving over his feet to stand is also an easily practiced step.
W-sitting is not as worrisome as some reports make it seem. The trick is to watch your child and note the issues that prompt the condition. So, relax and enjoy their childhood as most issues are sorted by the age of 8.