A hip problem can be hard to deal with, both for the child who has
the problem and to the parent or caregiver. A child who has a hip problem may
feel pain in the hip, groin, thigh, or knee. A child in pain may limp or be
unable or unwilling to stand, walk, or move the affected leg. A baby in pain
may cry, be fussy, and have other
signs of pain. Hip problems may be present at birth
(congenital) or may develop from injury, overuse,
inflammation, infection, or tumor growth.
To better understand hip problems, it may be helpful to know how the
hip works. It is the largest ball-and-socket joint in
the body. The thighbone (femur) fits tightly into a cup-shaped socket
(acetabulum) in the pelvis. The hip joint is tighter and more stable than the
shoulder joint but it does not move as freely. The hip joint is held together
by muscles in the buttock, groin, and spine; tendons; ligaments; and a joint
capsule. Several fluid-filled sacs (bursae) cushion and lubricate the hip joint
and let the tendons and muscles glide and move smoothly. The largest nerve in
the body (sciatic nerve) passes through the pelvis into the leg.
Hip problems may develop from overuse,
infection, or a problem that was present from birth (congenital). Oddly enough,
a child who has a hip problem often feels pain in the knee or thigh instead of
the hip. Hip problems that affect children include:
An inflammatory reaction, such as
transient or toxic synovitis. This generally occurs
after the child has had a cold or other upper respiratory infection. This is
the most common cause of hip pain in children.
slipped capital femoral epiphysis. This occurs when
the upper end of the thighbone (head of the femur) slips at the growth plate
(epiphysis) and does not fit in the hip socket correctly.
An inward twisting of
the thighbone (femoral anteversion). This condition causes the knees and feet
to turn inward. The child will have a "pigeon-toed" appearance and may have a
Developmental dysplasia of the hip (DDH). This condition is caused by a problem in the development of the
hip joint. The top of the femur does not fit correctly into the hip socket
(acetabulum) so the femur can partially or completely slip out of the
In rare cases, cancer of
the bone, such as osteosarcoma.
Treatment for a hip problem depends on the location, type,
and severity of the problem as well as the child's age, general health, and
activity level. Treatment may include first aid measures; application of a
brace, cast, harness, or traction; physical therapy; medicines; or
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Home treatment may help relieve your
child's hip pain, swelling, and stiffness. If your child will cooperate, use
the following tips. If your child becomes upset or will not cooperate, do not
force your child.
Rest. Have your child rest and protect the sore
hip. Have your child stop, change, or take a break from any activity that may
be causing pain or soreness.
Ice will help your child's pain and
ice or cold packs on the sore area immediately. Put ice on for 20 minutes
out of every hour and do this 4 or more times in the first 1 to 2 days. If your
child is cooperative, use the ice often. If your child is not cooperative, use
the ice as much as you can without struggling with your child. Wrap the ice in
a wet towel. Do not put the ice right on the skin. Take the ice off if your
child falls asleep.
For sleep, put your child on the side that does not have a
Gently rub your child's hip to relieve pain and
help blood flow.
If the swelling is gone,
heat can be put on the area. Your child can carefully
begin normal activities. Moist heat with a hot water bottle, warm towel, or a
heating pad set on low may feel good to your child.
Medicine you can buy without a prescription
Try a nonprescription
medicine to help treat your child's fever or pain:
Talk to your child's doctor before switching back and
forth between doses of acetaminophen and ibuprofen to treat a fever. When you
switch between two medicines, there is a chance your child will get too much
Be sure to follow these
safety tips when you use a nonprescription medicine:
Carefully read and follow all labels on
the medicine bottle and box.
Give, but do not exceed, the maximum
Do not give your child a medicine if he or she
has had an
allergic reaction to it in the past.
How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.