The other day I was walking to pick up my daughter from school and I noticed an elementary school child sitting on the sidewalk in a W sitting position. My hips started hurting for him and I had the urge to tell him to "fix his legs." It's one of those things that changed about me and many of my colleagues the minute we started PT school - we started noticing how people walk, sit, stand, move, etc. everywhere we go.....even when we aren't trying to.
Over my years of treating, I've noticed that these irregular patterns, such as W sitting, can lead to pain and problems down the line. This is why I believe it is so important to correct what you can as soon as you can.
W Sitting - sitting on your bottom with knees bent and legs out to the side in a "W" position.
Example of W sitting:
Disclaimer: My child was not harmed by forcing her to take this photo
and was immediately told to never sit like that again. :)
Many children prefer and default to the W sitting position because it provides a wider base of support, requires less postural control and does not demand as much trunk/core strength. This is a common sitting position for children, especially those with hypotonia (low muscle tone), hypermobile joints and those who have difficulty with balance.
We want to correct W sitting because continued posturing in the W sit position can cause orthopedic problems (hip dislocation, in-toeing), delay development of postural control and stability and result in weakness of hip, abdominal and back musculature. This sitting position also puts stress on the hip abductors, hamstrings, hip internal rotators and heel cords and can loosen joints due to excessive stress on hips and knees.
PREVENTION IS KEY! The best way to prevent W sitting is to correct the child's position before it becomes a habit. If you see your child sitting like the above picture, tell them to "fix your legs" and help them if needed. Better sitting positions that encourage use of trunk and lower extremity muscles for proper development are as follows:
Kneeling (not the best position if your child is a toe walker)
Sitting cross legged
Sitting in a chair
I first learned about W sitting during my 1st physical therapy school clinical rotation at a pediatric clinic in Twin Falls, ID. I learned so much from the amazing physical therapists at Primary Therapy Source and have the most fond memories of my time there. My clinical project during this rotation was to make a W sitting video for the clinic. Check out my project here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h6xeqnmyJRk