You have probably heard that sitting too much isn’t good; it can contribute to chronic disease. Patients often ask: What about sitting with legs crossed; is that bad for you?
Fact: It Causes Backaches
Many people find sitting with legs crossed more comfortable than having both feet flat on the floor. Very few of us have perfect skeletal symmetry. Anatomic differences in leg length may cause a tilt in the pelvis when standing and placing one leg over the other helps counteract this imbalance. This position might feel good now, but it may exacerbate the problem later. Crossing legs places asymmetric forces on the joints between the pelvis and the low back. Cartilage in these weight-bearing joints can swell when misaligned or irritated, resulting in back pain.
Fact: It Leads to Bad Posture
Regularly overlapping your legs might cause you to hold your body in an unnatural position. One study found that a crossed sitting posture can cause scoliosis, decreased trunk length and spinal deformities. You may also notice a limp on the affected side. Poor posture has long-term consequences. By the time you notice it, there may be damage or wear and tear.
Fact: It Increases Risk of Blood Clots
Circulation is essential for optimal function. When you cross your thighs, you obstruct leg veins, slowing down blood flow. Blood can pool, slightly increasing your risk of blood clots, so avoid sitting in this posture for longer than 10-15 minutes. Another hazardous situation? A long flight when you’re scrunched into an airplane seat. Also, pregnant women should resist crossing, as their blood clots more easily.
Fact: It Bumps Your Blood Pressure
If you take your blood pressure with one leg on top of the other, you will find a slight uptick compared to keeping both feet on the floor. There is a slight increase in cardiac output related to constricted blood flow, but it is not a significant problem unless you have high blood pressure or diabetes. If you monitor your blood pressure at home, make sure your feet are flat on the floor for accurate results.
A Better Way to Sit
Ideally, sit like Queen Elizabeth: Legs uncrossed, feet flat on the floor, back straight, eyes focused straight ahead. Adjust your chair so knees are at a right angle. Place your computer monitor, phone and mouse to optimize good posture. Take a break and move around every 30 minutes. Walking engages your calf muscles, which gets your blood pumping.
Get Your Posture Back on Track
If you have developed back pain or poor posture from crossing your legs, a chiropractor or physical therapist can help with spinal adjustments, stretches and targeted exercises. Questions? Bronston Clinics offer caring, capable healthcare providers. Call 608.781.2225 for more information.
Source: Livestrong, with Robert Hayden, DC, PhD, Spokesperson for The American Chiropractic Association