Hip pain in children (irritable hip)

Hip pain in children is most often caused by a condition called irritable hip, which usually gets better on its own. But it should always be checked because it could be a sign of something serious, (see section below).

When to get immediate medical help

Ask for an urgent GP appointment or go to your nearest emergency department  if your child:

  • gets sudden pain in their hip, thigh or knee (hip problems can sometimes be felt in the thigh or knee)
  • is limping or can't put any weight on one leg

They probably just have irritable hip (inflammation of the hip joint). This isn't serious and gets better by itself.

But they should be checked to rule out anything like a broken bone or infected joint (septic arthritis).

To find out what's causing your child's pain, a doctor or nurse may:

  • look at and feel your child's hip, leg or knee
  • try gently moving the leg in different directions
  • ask about any recent injuries or illnesses
  • arrange an X-ray

Sometimes a blood test or other scans may also be done to confirm it's nothing serious.

Treatment for irritable hip

Irritable hip normally gets better in 1 or 2 weeks and doesn't cause lasting problems.

You can usually look after your child at home. Sometimes they may need to stay in hospital for a few days if they're in a lot of pain.

While looking after your child at home:

Do

  • make sure they rest their leg until they're feeling better – keep them off nursery or school until they're recovered
  • give them ibuprofen or paracetamol for their pain
  • go to any follow-up appointments recommended by your doctor or nurse

Don't

  • let them do any activities that could put a lot of strain on their hip for at least 2 weeks – they can gradually return to their normal activities once they're feeling better (swimming is a good way to get the joint moving again)

Take your child back to the GP or hospital if:

  • their pain is getting worse
  • they get a high temperature or feel hot and shivery
  • their pain hasn't started to improve after a week
  • they're still in pain after 2 weeks
  • their pain went away but has come back

This might mean they have a more serious problem.

The information on this page has been adapted from original content from the NHS website.

For further information see terms and conditions.

This page was published September 2018

This page is due for review April 2021

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