Top Causes of Hip Pain in Children

Your child uses their hips every day for walking, crawling, sitting, or standing. Because of this, hip problems can come up. This can make it hard for them to move the right way.

If your child has a hip problem, she may have hip pain, but she may also have pain in her knee or thigh instead. She might start to limp. Or she may be in too much pain to walk at all.

Your child’s hip could hurt for lots of reasons. It may be because of problems they were born with. Infections, injuries, and other things can cause it, too.

Transient Synovitis

If your child has this common cause of hip pain, they may limp and tell you their hip hurts after sitting for a long time. They'll also walk with their toes pointed outward. They may walk on the tips of their toes, have knee or thigh pain, or refuse to walk if the pain is very bad. Your baby will cry when you move their hip joint.

This problem is most common in preschool and elementary students. Boys get it more often than girls. Doctors don’t know why, but it happens a lot in children who’ve had a virus. It may be a side effect of the body's fight against it.

Your child’s pediatrician may prescribe anti-inflammatory medicine, sometimes with pain meds. Within a few weeks, they should feel better, without any lingering problems.

Hip Dysplasia

At baby well visits, doctors check the movements of your baby’s hips. This is because in some babies, one or both hips didn't develop quite right. Some babies are born with the problem. Others have it after they’re born.

It’s more common in girls. Doctors think the hormones babies get in the womb may relax the hips too much. It may be more common among kids born breech -- with their feet or hips first.

A doctor may put your baby in a soft brace that keeps their knees bent for several months. This usually takes care of the problem.

In rare cases, your child may need surgery.

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Arthritis

Different kinds of it can cause hip pain in children. The most common type is juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA). If your child has it, they may feel stiffness or have swelling in more than one joint. Their hips may be stiff as well. Your child may also have an unusual walk or have a fever for unknown reasons.

Doctors aren’t sure what causes JIA, but it may be linked to a virus. It’s most common in children before they hit puberty. Doctors often treat it with medicine and physical therapy.

Legg-Calve-Perthes Disease

If the rounded top of the thighbone (femoral head) that fits into the hip socket (pelvis) doesn’t get enough blood, the bone is more likely to break. It also won’t heal as well as a healthy bone would. This can cause your child to limp or have stiffness and pain in the hip, knee, or thigh.

Doctors don’t know why blood stops flowing to the hip joint in some children. It’s more common among kids up to age 8. Boys are more likely to have it. Doctors can treat it with crutches, a cast, physical therapy, or surgery.

Having Legg-Calve-Perthes disease after age 6 makes someone more likely to have hip problems as an adult.

Slipped Capital Femoral Epiphysis

This is a fracture along the growth plate under the ball joint in the hip. It's kind of like ice cream falling off the cone. This causes pain, sometimes in the hip but other times in the thigh or knee. Sometimes, your child may need crutches. Other times, they can’t walk or move their leg because the pain is so severe.

It’s more common in older children (from age 8 into teenage years) and those who are overweight. Boys get it more often. Surgery is a common treatment. Many children recover fully, but they’re more likely to have arthritis of the hip as adults.

Infections

A number of them can cause pain in your child’s hip. This may make them limp or give them trouble walking. One condition, called septic arthritis, can cause painful hip swelling and redness. It may be caused by bacteria (like a staph infection), a virus, or even a fungus. Other bacterial infections or Lyme disease (which your child may get from the bite of an infected tick) can also cause hip pain.

Antibiotics may be all that’s needed to treat some infections. Other times, your child may need a procedure to drain the infection from the joint.

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Other Causes

Sometimes, an injury can cause hip pain. In rare cases, a tumor in the hip can cause it as well.

When to See the Doctor

If pain is severe or it stops your child from walking, take her to the doctor right away. Your child may need a blood test, X-ray, or MRI. Once the doctor figures out what’s causing the problem, he’ll offer a treatment.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Roy Benaroch, MD on January 10, 2018

Sources

SOURCES:

American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons: “The limping child.”

University of Chicago: “Common causes of hip pain in children.”

Nemours Foundation: “Toxic synovitis.”

American Academy of Pediatrics: “Arthritis.”

American Academy of Pediatrics: “Hip dysplasia.”

American Academy of Family Physicians: “Hip problems in infants.”

Mayo Clinic: “Legg-Calve-Perthes disease: Symptoms and causes.”

Mayo Clinic: “Legg-Calve-Perthes disease: Diagnosis and treatment.”

American Academy of Family Physicians: “Slipped capital femoral epiphysis.”

Mayo Clinic: “Septic arthritis.”

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