What is w-sitting?
W-sitting is a cross between a kneeling position and a sitting position. Your knees are out infront just like in kneeling but rather than having your bottom on your heels, your bottom is on the ground with your feet on each side. When in this position you’re your legs make the shape of a w.
This position can be natural for many children and is quite common. It gives wider base of support and this is more reassuring for children with postural tone difficulties. It is easier for children to get into this position than it is for adults as they have more flexibility in the hip area.
Why do children w-sit?
Sitting in a w-position provides an extremely wide base of support. Due to the position of the hip joint and the placement for the legs along the ground. It locks out many joints and then effectivy allow the child to maintain a very stable upright position without the need to core strength. Child with low muscle tone who find it difficult to maintain an upright position frequently use this strategy.
For other children they may have started to sit like this when they were very young and needed more stability but as they gained this stability the sitting position became habitual.
Why are we told not to allow children to w-sit?
There are many conlicting opinions in relation to w-sitting. Some physiotherapists are completely against it and advise that we avoid it at all times and others advise that if the child does not do it all the time, they will likely grow out of it as their joints become tighter and the position becomes less comfortable for them.
When we sit in a w position we are rotating our leg internally and many theories say that getting into this position too often rather the squatting or sitting in active position makes us more likely to internally rotate our legs and feet when walking which can leed to poor walking positions and affect our balance.
There are further theories which indicate that prolonged w-sitting positions can affect the structures around our hip joint leading to pain and movement difficulties later in life. While this is frequently spoken about in relation to w-sitting, specific evidence linking w-sitting and hip problems are lacking.
What should I do if my child is w-sitting?
Where possible try to discourage w-sitting. This does not mean that you need to constantly correct your child but you can encourage more functional positions. If your child always w-sits on the floor when playing with a toy try to bring it to a table where they can sit correctly on a chair or a lower table where they will need to kneep up high. You can also encourage them to play with toys when lying on their stomach.
If your child has poor balance or low muscle tone, try to encourage them to practice activities to work on these skills and they will not need to rely on w-sitting for a supportive base when sitting.
Amanda Kelly, Senior Occupational Therapist, Sensational Kids
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