A client who brings her little girl in to see me recently enquired about ‘W’ sitting, which prompted me to do a little research and share it with our community.
Like most practitioners I have developed some firm beliefs around ‘W’ sitters. I appreciate new information is always coming to hand, so I thought it best to review what’s true and what’s not!
I’ve always had concerns around the ‘W’ sitters, around the impact on both brain and body development and implications as adults.
I see a 40 something male who’s posture in my view was indicative of a ‘W’ sitter (flat footed, knees turned in, sway back, rotated pelvis and forward head posture) and sure enough he was a long-term ‘W’ sitter as a kid.
My main concern is around the lack of core strength and how this then effects posture and balance.
So, what exactly is ‘W’ sitting?
If you’re a parent, then I know you’ve seen this. Kids sit with both feet out wide, not under there bottoms. It’s most common 3-6yrs but can be younger.
Why do kids W sit?
- Structural mal-positioning of the hips, i.e. rotated forwards causing the feet to Pidgeon toe and knees to knock.
- Core weakness
- Balance issues
What’s the problem with ‘W’ sitting?
- Reduced core activation
- Poor posture
- Pidgeon toed (chicken or the egg scenario)
- Decreased trunk rotation
- Delayed milestones particularly fine motor control.
- Stress on joints
- May lead to spine and pelvic issues in adulthood.
What can you do to help?
- Teach you kids alternate ways to sit (more on this further down).
- Core strengthening
- Hip stretching
- Brain training
- Physical therapies
Myths around W sitting:
#1: No long-term impact.
Truth: Spine, hip and pelvis stress (note, not a concern under the age of 2yrs however, a significant concern if still present at 6-7yrs). Longer term issues relate to coordination, strength, and reduced fine and gross motor skills.
#2: It’s the most supportive way to sit.
Truth: ‘W’ sitting relies on joints to support sitting posture rather than muscles. Long term de-activation of important postural muscles will eventually impact spino-pelvic posture and coordination – balance.
#3: As an adult even though I was a ‘W’ sitting I have no issues now.
Truth: You may think that’s the case (after-all pain is mis-leading) however, W sitters are usually easy to spot as adults. Remember by 40 something male patient. Not only do these people assume a particular posture, this effects their gait: excessive tripping and clumsiness, poor balance and proprioception.
The other concern is what happens to the feet. The knees twist inwards, and the feet roll in placing a lot of stress on these joints. We use a highly technical 3D foot scanner to measure degrees of flat footedness and in the general population it’ moderate to severe. This begs the question, just how prevalent are W sitters?
So when should I be concerned?
Irregular, spasmodic ‘W’ sitting is not a problem, it’s when it becomes the ONLY way they sit.
So when should you seek out a professional?
Frequent ‘W’ sitting.
You start noticing a limp.
You notice weakness in the legs.
You notice Pidgeon toeing.
You notice chronic poor posture.
Seems to not be able to sit in any other position comfortably.
You notice difficulty with fine motor skills, e.g. tying shoe laces, using a zipper, holding onto small objects…
So, what do other W sit options.
Firstly, let’s remember this has now become an unconscious habit. That means your kid doesn’t even realize how they are sitting.
So, you need to provide visual, verbal and tactile cues and make sure you set this up with your child before starting this process.
- Tap the child’s leg.
- Use a phrase, ‘Please change your sitting’.
- Use home-made signs around the house, e.g. a stop signs with a photo of your kid sitting in a W posture.
- Make it fun. Use a bell around the house to indicate when they are sitting in this posture, make fun signs.
- Try different postures:
- Sit cross legged.
- Long-sit, feet out in front.
- Short kneel, sitting on heels, yoga pose.
- Half Kneel.
- Chair sit.
- Cushion sits.
How can a Chiropractor help?
Chiropractors are well placed to assess and help your ‘W’ sitting child.
Chiropractors help with the structural integrity of the spine, pelvis and lower extremities. Some Chiropractors can also help with brain integration and training to help in grain a brand-new pattern.
For more information please give us a call on 5998 4554 or simply make an appointment. We’d love to help.
About the Author:
Dr. Andrew Arnold is a Chiropractor and ACTP accredited Business Coach.
Andrew is married to Dr. Linda Wilson, the Stress Specialist and has two children, Isaac and Bella. He lives in Melbourne, Australia.