Leg-crossing compulsion
September 27, 2007 12:49 PM   Subscribe

Why do I often feel the compulsion to put one leg up on the other when sitting?

Obviously it's something everyone does anyway here and there, but I'm not sure what causes me to do it as often as possible, especially at work. It just feels more comfortable that way I suppose, and after standing for a long period of time, it feels like more of a relief to sit that way than if I have both feet on the ground. Is it something to do with circulation or musculature? Is it necessarily a bad sign? And I'm not sure if it's related, but I've also done a lot of leg/foot shaking in my life, much to the annoyance of my parents.
posted by TheSecretDecoderRing to Health & Fitness (27 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
If it makes you feel any better, I can't be in front of a computer unless I'm twisted into a half-lotus. I am right now.
posted by cmyk at 12:57 PM on September 27, 2007

I do the same thing. Usually I'm just as comfortable putting a leg up on something. My guess is that the body does not have to work as hard against gravity to maintain blood pressure in the head and torso (which it does by vasoconstriction in the legs -- maybe that feels uncomfortable).
posted by rolypolyman at 12:58 PM on September 27, 2007

I do this both when I sit and when I lie on my back. I feel that when I cross my legs (at the ankles when in bed, and at the knee when sitting) I feel more "together." Otherwise I feel that my legs are at risk of flying open, or flailing in some other unruly manner. (For certain, on an airplane I always cross my legs, lest I fall asleep and one of my legs flops out into my neighbor's sitting space.)

Why feeling more "together" is the least bit important to me, I do not understand (except on an airplane). :) But I know I feel that way. Maybe it's an evolutionary thing, to keep things out of the nether regions. (I am female.)
posted by iguanapolitico at 1:12 PM on September 27, 2007

I do it because it pushes out my (often tender) lower back a bit and makes me feel more comfortable. But only on one side, so I switch legs pretty often. Sit in a chair with a throw pillow just above your glutes and see if you still want to cross your legs-- if you don't, it's your lower back.
posted by Mayor Curley at 1:20 PM on September 27, 2007

I think it probably has something to do with opening up your hips. I sleep with my hips splayed, and it feels like allows my back to flatten out and rest directly on the mattress.
posted by jrichards at 1:21 PM on September 27, 2007

I put one leg under the other when I'm seated at the computer, and don't realize until I get up and nearly trip over my numb foot.
posted by shinynewnick at 1:21 PM on September 27, 2007

Yup, I'm with ya. I worry myself that being in contortionist postures in front of the computer will result in vericose veins, poor circulation, or general discombobulation.
posted by letahl at 1:26 PM on September 27, 2007

don't rule out restless leg syndrome.
posted by roderashe at 1:42 PM on September 27, 2007

I thought I was the only one, what with the constant switching from sitting on one of my own feet to putting my feet up on my desk to finding something to prop them on while I'm sitting at the desk. I know there's nothing under there that I should put my feet on, but I try anyway, and then end up feeling slightly disappointed when I can't find anything. I notice that I put my feet up on top of the desk more when my boss asks me my opinion of something and I'm forced to stop what I'm doing and think about the answer, but I just end up looking lazy, not pensive. I've also got the shaky foot-and-leg thing, too - it comes in handy when you have a colicky baby. I try to stop myself from moving around so much, but it's something I do without thinking.

I wish I could answer your question, but my advice is to invest in a good foot stool, or a very sturdy box.
posted by mitzyjalapeno at 1:43 PM on September 27, 2007

also: the shaky foot-and-leg thing is very, very bad for poker. I tend to do it more when I think, and I usually stop, abruptly, when I make a decision. My friends love it.
posted by mitzyjalapeno at 1:46 PM on September 27, 2007

I do this too, and it's a habit I'm trying to break myself of. I'm kind of wondering if yoga would help, like perhaps I'm trying to stretch my legs in a way that yoga would stretch them. But I have noticed that the veins are more prominent on the leg that I like to tuck under me, right in the area that I put pressure on and I'm making myself stop sitting like that every time I notice that I am.

I do the foot shaking thing too, I call it conducting a symphony with my feet. It annoyed the hell out of numerous parents and teachers.

I also had a lot of problems with restless leg syndrome about 8 years ago. I couldn't sleep and I kept moving my legs. If you google rls or restless leg syndrome you'll get lots of pages on it. I had this problem very severely and then it went away about a year later. But I really wonder what the heck is up with me and my legs.
posted by Melsky at 1:50 PM on September 27, 2007

I do this too, and I've noticed that when I force myself not to, my back starts to hurt and I become faint. So I think it has to do with blood pressure and hip/back alignment.
posted by emyd at 2:01 PM on September 27, 2007

Best answer: It is a sign that your chair is not at the right height. Readjust.
posted by grouse at 2:06 PM on September 27, 2007

I agree with grouse. I'm 6'3" and all my life I have had to sit in chairs designed for 5'6"-5'10". It's rare I have tall enough seats outside of my own home so I nearly always have my legs crossed to keep my back from going wonky and constantly fidgeting to make up for the discomfort.
posted by a_green_man at 2:39 PM on September 27, 2007

Do you cross:
thigh-over-thigh (tight, knees end up one on top of the other, feet on floor), or
ankle-over-ankle (knees end up next to each other, feet on floor), or
ankle-to-knee (loose, kind of a figure-4, one foot on floor and one foot in the air), or
lotus/Indian style (knees out, ankles up on the chair with you)?

I do this too, usually in the first or last pose. In my case it exacerbates my already bad/slouchy seated posture, making my back more likely to curve out; I think it is also hard on my knees because I'm able to over-flex.

Maybe it would go away if you sat on one of those yoga/exercise balls instead of a chair?
posted by LobsterMitten at 2:49 PM on September 27, 2007

if you always sit on your wallet, you may be taking pressure off that butt cheek. alternatively, you might have a rotated pelvis (very common) and crossing your legs alleviates that imbalance. also, if you have weak abs, crossing your leg actually helps support your body.
posted by thinkingwoman at 3:33 PM on September 27, 2007 [1 favorite]

A few years back I saw someone tall sitting like that at work. Since then, I've done it. It's comfy! I'm doing it right now!

It does rule out using Aeron chairs though, because it's v. uncomfy on them.
posted by bonaldi at 3:59 PM on September 27, 2007

Just know this: I developed a numbness through my right lower calf/ankle/top of the foot from sitting with my right thigh crossed over my left knee for eight hours a day, five days a week for about four months in a row at one point. That area of my leg has only regained feeling gradually, as over the past year I've made a conscious effort to avoid sitting in that position for long stretches.
posted by limeonaire at 4:01 PM on September 27, 2007

(Note: During those four months, I was also wearing knee-high boots with heels most of the time I was sitting like that. So it may have been a combination of the boots unnaturally elongating my legs by a couple inches [thereby changing the way I felt comfortable sitting], the boot on my right leg weighing down the lower part of the leg more than would otherwise be expected in that position [thereby pinching the nerve] and walking a mile or so each day wearing the boots [walking a lot in heels is a recipe for disaster, I know]. But still—be cautious about the way you sit. I never knew working in an office could be so dangerous until I started doing it full-time and found myself with chronic shoulder pain, the numbness in my leg, and a coworker with a frozen shoulder.)
posted by limeonaire at 4:07 PM on September 27, 2007

Put me for "your chair is too low". I'm about the same height as a_green_man and I am constantly going through ridiculous contortions unless I am sitting in a properly adjusted chair.
posted by blacklite at 4:50 PM on September 27, 2007

I'm tall too, and most of my day is spent in positions that make chiropractors tent their magic healing fingers in glee.

I'm going to pile on and suggest that it's probably this dining chair I got off the sidewalk that's the problem.
posted by Reggie Digest at 5:25 PM on September 27, 2007

Currently sitting on a phone book, and yes, these guys are on to something.
posted by Reggie Digest at 5:28 PM on September 27, 2007

I continually change positions - I go through several variations of 'legs crossed' throughout the day. It's usually because, being a shortass, my feet don't really touch the floor unless I'm wearing serious heels. Lowering the chair makes the desk too high, which gives me serious shoulder pain after around 10 minutes. So, I deal with a box (currently my subwoofer) or constant variations on 'cross-legged'. I try and balance evenly between left and right sides, and change at least every 20mins to keep my spine moving a bit. My most comfortable working position is a couch with good (movable) lower back support, so i can sit 'normally', cross-legged in variations, or with my feet and knees up in a semi-crouch.

Basically, unless you're in the standard range of size/shape/proportions, you're going to end up sitting funny.
posted by ysabet at 6:37 PM on September 27, 2007

Try some stretching exercises, or take off your shoes, to give your legs/feet a different relationship to the chair/floor.
posted by Myself at 9:24 PM on September 27, 2007

Response by poster: Usually I cross ankle over thigh, with no preference for either leg. Occasionally I'll slip into the more, uh, feminine knee-over-knee stance, but that'd be kind of embarrassing.

Even when I don't sit like that, I'll often either have one ankle crossed over the other on the floor, or (at home) I'll sit cross-legged. I often watch TV or read cross-legged on the floor, so I don't know if that might've conditioned my legs to want to be propped up all the time.

I'm 5'7"-ish, so I'm not sure if it's a chair height thing. I do slouch often, so it could be a back issue, but I never have any discomfort there. Thanks for the suggestions though, I was expecting a lot for a question like this, but it's good to know there are others with even weirder sitting habits...
posted by TheSecretDecoderRing at 9:24 PM on September 29, 2007

Wow, I thought this was just me! I always assumed I did it to correct a tilted pelvis/scoliosis. I have been doing it since I was a kid, sitting at the dining room table with my right leg under me and I do it at the office too. When I can sit in anything other than a chair, I usually go for "indian style" (which I always thought was a strange thing to call it as I thought it meant American Indian, not East Indian/lotus pose). When I'm at movies or concerts I can sit still for about an hour and then after that I'm absolutely CRAVING to sit cross-legged on the floor. I am tall and have been tall since I was 13..don't know if that makes any difference. I'll ask my chiropracter about this phenomenon and see what he says.
posted by kenzi23 at 10:05 PM on September 30, 2007

Response by poster: Kenzi, I'm interested in the chiropractor's response, although your situation sounds a bit different from mine.

Anyway, I tried raising my chair at work today, and it seemed to do the trick. There were a couple of times I'd prop my leg up, but I realized it right away and put it back down without any nagging feeling. I'll still cross my ankles sometimes, but that's about it. Of course, this wouldn't have worked at my last job since the chair was already as high as it could go.

I'm not sure if this solution would work for everyone and their particular variations of the same problem, but the chair adjustment seems to apply to mine anyway. Thanks.
posted by TheSecretDecoderRing at 11:25 PM on September 30, 2007

« Older Real-time video manipulaton [mac]   |   What's the Pitchfork of the electronic music world... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.