18 Apr W-Sitting: Why Correcting It Is Important
W-Sitting is a sitting position commonly seen in children where the child’s bottom is completely on the floor and their feet are splayed out to the sides from the knee—forming a “W” shape with their legs and knees.
During normal development, babies sometimes briefly move in and out of W-Sitting when transitioning from one position to another and this is normal. The problem occurs when the child remains in that position for an extended period of time such as during floor play or while watching television. This puts excessive pressure on the knee, hip, and ankle joints. Constant exposure to this position can lead to future orthopedic problems, such as poor posture, tight hamstrings or even hip dislocation.
Why do children W-Sit? Many children sit like this because it feels more stable than other sitting positions. The “W” position of the legs widens the child’s base of support and the trunk muscles don’t have to work as hard to keep the child upright. Children with hypotonia or low muscle tone, tend to prefer the stability of W-Sitting. Children tend to avoid shifting their weight and rotating the trunk while playing. Weight shifting and trunk rotation play an important role in balancing, crossing midline and using both hands together, which are skills that provide the foundation for hand preference and the development of fine motor skills.
Here are some suggestions for reducing W-Sitting in youngsters:
— With babies, alter their position to kneeling, side sitting, or sitting cross-legged.
— With toddlers and preschoolers, have them to sit in an appropriately sized chair that is pulled up to a small table for fine-motor activities such as playing with blocks or coloring.
— Give the child an alternative by saying “Would you rather sit like this or this?” and demonstrate appropriate seating positions, such as side sitting or cross-legged sitting.
— Use a low tray as the work surface and have the child position his or her legs straight out in front of her under the tray.
— Use a verbal or gestural cue to remind the child by saying, “Fix your feet”. This keeps it positive, rather than saying, “Don’t sit like that”.
Regular structured physical activity plays an important role in strengthening a child’s muscles to prevent future joint deformity due to consistent W-Sitting. Consultation with a pediatric occupational therapist or physical therapist can assist with developing a plan to protect children’s joints. For more information, contact Marquette General Therapies at one of our locations or visit our website at www.mgh.org or www.uprehab.com