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.
Urgent advice: Ask for an urgent GP appointment or go to A&E 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 1 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).
What happens at your appointment
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:
- ensure 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
- attend any follow-up appointments recommended by your doctor or nurse
- do not 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)
Urgent advice: 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.