W-sitting: Some fear style of sitting by kids could have effects on joints, musclesChild development specialists, including physical and occupational therapists, warn against children regularly sitting in this position. When a child W-sits, his or her knees are straight ahead and legs are rotated to the side, forming a W.
By: Sherri Richards, INFORUM
FARGO – Here’s a New Year’s resolution, parents. Keep an eye out for W-sitting.
Child development specialists, including physical and occupational therapists, warn against children regularly sitting in this position.
When a child W-sits, his or her knees are straight ahead and legs are rotated to the side, forming a W.
“Every child W-sits at some point,” such as when they transition from crawling to sitting or sitting to standing, says Brian Borchardt, physical therapy coordinator for Pediatric Therapy Partners in Fargo. “Where we get concerned is where it becomes a preferred position for the child.
“It really puts a lot of stress on your hip joints, makes some muscles shorter than they should be and others longer than they should be,” he says.
Over the long term, W-sitting can damage the ligaments, cause instability in the knee joint and lead to chronic pain in adolescents and adults, says Jacky Mergner, an occupational therapist with the Anne Carlsen Center’s KIDS Program, an early intervention program that works with kids ages 0 to 3.
“If you do it occasionally, it’s not a big deal,” Mergner says, “but most kids who do W-sit, they feel most stable like that.”
Kids with lower muscle tone tend to W-sit, because it provides a wider base, “like two kickstands,” Borchardt says. It doesn’t require them to use stomach and back muscles to support themselves.
Borchardt says W-sitting is particularly concerning when a child has another developmental issue, such as Down syndrome or cerebral palsy.
But Dr. David Clutter, a pediatrician with Essentia Health in Fargo, views W-sitting as a “non-problem.”
When he sees kids who W-sit, he says they usually have orthopedic deformity, femoral anteversion, a turning in of the thighbone at the hip which causes the child to walk in-toed.
Rather than W-sitting causing orthopedic problems, Clutter believes W-sitting is a symptom of one, and it usually resolves itself.
“It’s not something to be overly concerned about, but at the same time not something I’d encourage either,” Clutter says. “I think it’s best to not have your child to do that (W-sit).”
Once parents are aware of W-sitting, they’ll start to notice a lot of kids doing it, Mergner says.
To avoid habitual W-sitting, parents should encourage their children to sit with their legs out in front, both out to one side (side sitting), or crossed in front (tailor sitting). Depending on age, they can give a gentle verbal reminder, such as “fix your sitting,” or physically reposition the child.
If your child continues to switch back into a W-sit, Mergner suggests providing a little bench or stool to sit on.
Some children may need to build their leg and trunk muscles to adopt other seated positions. Mergner suggests having the child sit and stand repeatedly. Borchardt says sitting on an exercise ball can help build core strength.
WHAT IS W-SITTING?
W-sitting is a seated position where a child sits on the floor with their bottom between bent legs and their legs rotated away from their body, so the legs form a W shape on the floor.
WHO DOES IT?
Children with low muscle tone and/or hyper-mobile joints, and children who have difficulty with balance.
WHY IS IT A PROBLEM?
Prolonged W-sitting may lead to long-term effects on the muscles and joints of the back, hips, knees and feet. Because the position provides a wider base of support, the child’s trunk muscles are not activated.
Readers can reach Forum reporter Sherri Richards at (701) 241-5556