A bad sitting posture could cause major damage to legs. In this report by SADE OGUNTOLA, experts say that sitting in crossed-leg position for a prolonged period, for instance, can do more harm than good.
The crossing of knees is a very common pose people adopt when sitting down; many people do this consciously. This position is elegant and s3xy, and often associated with being ’’feminine’’ and ’’ladylike.’’ But not too many people know that sitting crossed leg can have some serious consequences on their health and bodies.
Charming as sitting with a crossed-leg posture may seem to be, it is not a normal sitting position to be encouraged for prolonged period of time.
“A fat person that sits with crossed-leg will feel the muscles of the thigh rub more on themselves. So, it will not be too comfortable for a fat person, even if a slim person can cope,” said Dr Fatai Adeniyi, a physiotherapist, College of Medicine, University of Ibadan, Oyo State.
According to Dr Adeniyi, sitting with crossed legs would also require that the ligaments that hold the bones also have to stretch to keep that position because it is not a normal anatomic position.
“This can affect blood circulation; there will be a point that the blood vessel will be angulated. Blood flow will be impeded, so it will not be as free as it should,” he added.
Posture issues may seem minor in the beginning but can cause serious health issues in the long run. ”That is why individuals can change to the posture of sitting with closed legs and incline one side or with their feet planted flat on the floor and their knees making an angle of 90 degrees with the hips to be comfortable and polite,” Dr Adeniyi declared.
Research has found that good posture leads to improved intelligence; protects from back problems and “sitting disease”; and staves off heart disease and diabetes.
Dr Abiodun Adeoye, a consultant cardiologist, University College Hospital (UCH), Ibadan, Oyo State, said spending too much time with crossed-legs can cause the leg or foot go numb.
“Crossing the legs can put pressure on the peroneal nerve at the back of the knee, which supplies sensation to the lower legs and feet. Of course, this uncomfortable feeling will make the individual move,” he stated.
He declared that even when taking blood pressure measurement crossing of legs is also not allowed because it might skew the reading by temporarily raising the blood pressure.
Studies have found that leg crossing can result in a higher blood pressure reading. One of the studies was conducted at a hypertension clinic in Istanbul.
The Istanbul researchers took several readings with legs crossed and uncrossed. Again, blood pressure was higher when legs were crossed, but when the measurements were repeated just three minutes after uncrossing the legs, blood pressure was back to the earlier levels. The greatest rise in blood pressure occurs in people already being treated for high blood pressure.
It is reasoned that because the blood in the legs has to work against gravity to be pumped back to the heart, crossing one leg over the other increases resistance, making it even harder for the blood to circulate. This causes the body to increase the blood pressure to push the blood back to the heart.
Although crossing of legs at the knee when sitting down does not give high blood pressure in the long term, he said its effect on blood circulation in individuals with some peripheral vascular diseases can be catastrophic.
“This is a country that many people do not go for medical checkups and might not know they have such a problem as peripheral vascular diseases,” he added.
Peripheral vascular disease (PVD) is a blood circulation disorder that causes the blood vessels outside of the heart and brain to narrow, block, or spasm. This can happen in the arteries or veins. PVD typically causes pain and fatigue, often in the legs, and especially during exercise.
Dr Tayo Ayorinde, a consultant orthopaedic and spine surgeon in Lagos, said crossing of legs is always discouraged in persons that had just undergone hip replacement surgery because it could dislocate the hip as well as those with some inflammatory conditions of the joints such as gout and rheumatoid disease.
Although crossing legs at the knee would not predispose an individual to develop arthritis in a healthy person, Dr Ayorinde stated: “to the best of my knowledge, crossing legs on its own and in an otherwise normal healthy person should have no consequence.”
Much as ladies tend to cross their legs for some other reasons, he assured that if it is not done beyond what the body can cope wth, it should be okay.
Dr Ayorinde, however, cautioned persons above 40 years against crossing of legs when on long trips either by road or air because this could narrow down blood flow around the knee area, making a clot more likely.
“The limps are in an abnormal awkward position, so this may increase a risk for blood clot formation in the calf muscles, what is medically termed Deep vein thrombosis (DVT). It is bad enough that when flying one cannot be standing, but there is the need to be changing position regularly,” he said.
The surgeon said the current recommendation is that nobody should sit for more than 30 minutes at a stretch when it is possible, adding that the risk of an early death is higher in people that seat for a longer than 30 minutes at a stretch.
He declared, “Individuals are advised to change position at least every 30 minutes, even if it is just to stand and sit back again.”
But even if the crossing of legs does not give high blood pressure in the long term, some people suggest that it can give varicose veins.
Usually, tiny valves in the blood vessels prevent blood from flowing back in the wrong direction, but if those valves become stretched and weakened the blood can pool, resulting in the enlarged veins that are all varicose veins.
Sitting in crossed-leg position can also lead to pelvic imbalance. It is due to the reason that this position can impact your inner and outer thigh muscles. This could also put your leg-joints at risk.
Also, one study found that people who sat with their legs crossed for more than three hours a day were more likely to lean forward and to round their shoulders.