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.

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).

Find an A&E department

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:

Do

  • 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

Don't

  • 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)

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.

Page last reviewed: 18/12/2017
Next review due: 18/12/2020

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