“Sit properly! Cross your legs! Be more ladylike!” Many of us ladies were scolded by our mothers growing up to sit with our legs crossed at the knee. Nowadays, most men and women usually cross their legs due to comfort and habit rather than for manners. Often when we cross our legs now, one of our friends will exclaim “don’t cross your legs, that’s bad for you!” Ever wonder why? Well, this position can lead to an unbalanced pelvis or even contribute to pelvis, lower back, and hip discomfort.
The pelvis needs to be balanced for the spine to be balanced. The pelvis consists of 3 bones: the two hip bones and the triangular sacrum in between. If the hips are level and the hips and sacrum are aligned, the legs will be able to sit evenly into their sockets and the spine can be straight.
How can crossing the legs lead to pelvic imbalance?
The bones of the body are held together by tendons and muscles, which run from one bone to the next. These keep the bones in the right place so that every joint can move properly. Each muscle has a specific length and when they are all in their ideal range of length, everything is held in perfect alignment. However, if you habitually adopt a slightly different position, slowly over a long time the muscles adapt and become permanently longer or shorter leading to the chance that your joints will move out of place.
Constantly crossing your legs eventually makes the outer thigh muscle longer and the inner thigh muscle shorter. When the posterior hip muscles shorten, it can lead to tightness and discomfort in the lower back and hips. Over time, this additional pressure on the hip muscles and the sciatic nerve can throw off your sacroiliac joint and pelvis leading to sciatica and back pain.
Sometimes your pelvis may be already out of alignment for other reasons such as accidents, falls, poor posture, etc. In this case, the body may try to alleviate the discomfort by crossing the legs. Crossing one of the legs will lessen the discomfort by taking the pelvis out of a neutral position to adapt to the imbalanced pelvis; however, this will just create more problems over time if the original issue is not corrected.
When is there a problem with crossing legs?
Crossing the legs is acceptable if you cross both sides approximately for the same amount of time and switch regularly as this is just a position switch that can relieve your body when sitting for long periods of time
It becomes a concern if:
- You notice that you feel more comfortable with one leg crossed over the other
- You always cross only one side over the other
- You find that crossing one way has more hip range than the other side.
- You notice that when you walk it seems like you have two different length legs
- You get regular low back or pelvis pain
- Feel like one leg is becoming weaker or heavy
- If your lower back, hips, or pelvis feel uncomfortable when you sit properly
If you experience these problems you need to seek a qualified professional to assess your pelvis and spine, and to check the nerves. Chiropractors are highly experienced in balancing the spine and nervous system.
How should you sit?
Find a supportive chair with good low back support that allows you to sit with feet flat on the floor, knees and hips close to 90 degrees. Your weight should be placed evenly across both bones of the bum and make sure there is a natural arch in the lumbar spine. The most important point is to remember to take breaks often from sitting at least one time every hour and get moving!