If your child is sitting in the "W" position, stop him right now!
If you see your child sitting in the form of a letter W – where both knees are bent and legs turned away from their body – be alarmed as it may lead to possible health issues related to the destruction of hip rotation and serious orthopedic problems in the long-run.
The W-sitting position is the most common sitting position amongst children, especially during their play time. If you see your child sitting this way, it is best to correct his posture immediately to ensure that it does not become a habit.
According to paediatrician Jean McNamara, it is common for children to sit in such manner because of the added trunk or balance for sitting upright while playing with toys. This excessive reliance to W-sitting might aggravate existing problems such as:
- Orthopedic problems. W-sitting 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.
- Muscle tightness. This position places the hamstrings, hip adductors, internal rotators and heel cords in an extremely shortened range. If a child is prone to tightness or contractures, encourage another pattern of sitting.
- Neurologic concerns/developmental delays. If a child has increased muscle tone (hypertonia, spasticity), W-sitting will feed into the abnormal patterns of movement trying to be avoided (by direction of the child’s therapist). Using other sitting postures will aid in the development of more desirable movement patterns.
How to discourage W-sitting
There are two important things you need to do to discourage W-sitting.
1. Making your child aware of the difference between W-sitting and sitting with the legs bent in front of the body. Correcting their habits by showing them the right form of sitting is the best possible preventive measure as you are their form of reference. You show, they'll follow!
2. Your child needs to get used to sitting with the legs bent in front of the body. This requires practice to develop the necessary flexibility and control. When you see your child sitting between their legs, gently move her legs to a better position and emphasise the importance of "feet in front". You can even turn it into a game – anyone with feet in front first wins! Encourage lots of twisting and reaching forwards to stretch the back and hip muscles while you're at it.