Sitting Like a Pretzel
May 26, 2008 8:15 PM   Subscribe

Will my lifelong habit of crossing my legs cause problems, like circulation, down the road?

No matter where I'm sitting, on upholstered cushions or in a dining chair at a restaurant or on the ground at a picnic, I *always* feel this urge to cross my legs. Not exactly "indian-style," more like folded arms in a way.
I try to remind myself to sit with legs stretched out/feet on the floor often as possible, then before I know it I look and find I've crossed them again, without even thinking.
Aside from avoiding this in formal gatherings etc., help me decide if it's a habit I need to fix due to possible problems developing eventually with blood circulation in my legs, or is that not even something to worry about?
posted by skyper to Health & Fitness (11 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Despite common folklore, apparently (as of this 2005 article, at least) varicose veins are not triggered by leg crossing. So there's something NOT to worry about.
posted by NikitaNikita at 9:39 PM on May 26, 2008

I have recently begun to hear complaints from my knees after sitting with my legs bent at angles in excess of ninety degrees. I don't know if there's damage being done that's long-term, but the short term pain is enough to make me change my habits. (BTW: I'm thirty-four with no history of knee trouble.)
posted by heathergirl at 9:56 PM on May 26, 2008

Crossing my legs while hunched over at my desk aggravated my back problems. I now have to sit with my legs flat on the ground.
posted by furtive at 10:28 PM on May 26, 2008

Crossing my legs and sitting "indian-style" in chairs has also aggravated back problems for me. I get severe pain in my very low back (coccyx-area) sometimes to the point where I can barely walk. It goes away within a day, but it may well be related to sitting with legs crossed for hours a day.
posted by fructose at 10:33 PM on May 26, 2008

Best answer: I think the worst you have to worry about is stiff knees if you sit in that position for extended periods of time. I dont sit cross legged on normal chairs but I do cross my ankles, maybe this could be a compromise for you? Although I do sit with my legs crossed for most of the day because I work on my laptop while sitting on the sofa, and my knees get a bit stiff it I don't get up for regular breaks or stretch my legs.
posted by missmagenta at 11:03 PM on May 26, 2008

I remember being taught how to sit "indian-style" in pre-school, yes we actually had a class on how boys sit and how girls sit. I'm 38 and have been doing it all my life. I buy chairs based on whether or not I can cross my legs. At the moment I am sitting cross legged with a laptop desk and laptop. The 'gargoyle' part of my name came from my habit of sitting on ledges or desks or windowsills in that position.

You need support, or learn to sit up straight to avoid the back pains. Anyways, I've done it all my life, no problems.
posted by zengargoyle at 1:10 AM on May 27, 2008

I sit in pretzel-position a lot of the time, and when I realize it, I stretch out my legs and move them into a less twisty position. I have found that if I do this over long periods of time, I get aches in my knees, particularly the knee of the leg which has been pretzelled the most. Also it aggravates sciatic-type pain, which radiates from my booty down my leg. I try not to give myself a hard time about it and figure it's ok in moderation.
posted by lucyleaf at 9:02 AM on May 27, 2008

I went through a period of habitually sitting at work in a chair with one leg crossed, and permanently lost the hair on the outside side of each leg. Weird, huh? Can't say it particularly bothers me though.
posted by w0mbat at 9:14 AM on May 27, 2008

I sit like that most of the time, and I don't know if this is cause or effect, but I have really tight hamstrings.
posted by 8dot3 at 10:26 AM on May 27, 2008

My father crosses his legs (left over right, outsides of the knees touching) when he play guitar and actually ended up wearing away the nerve on the outside of his right knee (according to his dr.)
This caused him to lose all feeling and control of his right foot, making it completely dead. He had to wear a stabilizing boot for 2 months while the nerve grew back. It was pretty scary for a while until he finally found a dr. that had seen this problem before.
posted by .taft at 9:38 AM on May 28, 2008

I have arthritis, and have found that sitting in the way that you describe puts less stress on my joints, for some reason. I asked my doctor at one point, afraid that I was ultimately messing up my body even more, and he said that there could be two things at work. One is that when I'm sitting with my legs crossed, I sit up very straight, reducing stress on my spine. The other is that sitting with legs crossed distributes your weight differently (since you're on a wider, more stable base) and is a more comfortable position for some people.

He didn't seem to think that it was problematic unless it started causing me pain, which it doesn't, so... In conclusion, I'm another one who buys chairs based on if I'm able to cross my legs in them or not.
posted by meghanmiller at 1:59 PM on May 28, 2008

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