Hip Problems in Children: 11 and Younger

Topic Overview

You may start to worry when you notice your child limping, but the most common cause of hip pain in children is rarely a serious condition.

If your child is diagnosed with a hip problem, understanding their condition will help in deciding what treatment options are best for your child and allow you to support them through treatment and recovery.

Hip problems in children may be present at birth (congenital) or develop from injury, overuse, inflammation, infection or tumor growth.

Hip problems that affect children age 11 and younger can include:

  • An inflammatory reaction such as transient or toxic synovitis. This generally occurs after a child has a viral illness.
  • A slipped capital femoral epiphysis (SCFE). This occurs when the upper end of the thighbone (femur) slips at the growth plate (epiphysis) and doesn’t fit in the hip socket correctly.
  • Legg-Calve-Perthes disease. This condition prevents the proper amount of blood from reaching the ball of the thighbone.
  • Developmental dysplasia of the hip (DDH): This condition is caused by a problem in the development of the hip joint.
  • Femoral anteversion. This condition causes the knees to turn inward.
  • Juvenile rheumatoid arthritis (JRA). This condition causes inflamed, swollen joints that are often stiff and painful.
  • Infection of the joint (septic arthritis), bursa (septic bursitis), or the hip or pelvic bone (osteomyelitis).
  • In rare cases, cancer of the bone, such as osteosarcoma.

Treatment of hip problems in children depend on the location, type and severity of the problem as well as the child’s age, general health, and activity level.

Symptoms

A child who has a hip problem may feel pain in the hip, groin, thigh or knee. You may detect when your child is in pain if you see them limp or if they are unable to walk, stand or move the affected leg.

Other symptoms of hip problems may include:

  • Hip pain or tenderness
  • Inability to bend, straighten or move a leg
  • Inflammation or signs of infection around the hip

It is important to seek medical help if your child is experiencing any of these symptoms.

Home Treatment

Home treatment is a great option to help reduce your child’s pain, swelling and stiffness caused by hip problems. Non-prescription medicine such as Ibuprofen and Acetaminophen can help treat your child’s fever or pain. It is important to consult your pediatrician about the proper medicine and dosage for your child.

Gently rubbing or icing your child’s hip can help reduce pain. If the swelling is gone, heat from a warm towel or heating pad can be used on the area as well.

During treatment and recovery, you should watch for other signs and symptoms including:

  • Increased pain or swelling
  • Signs of infection
  • Numbness, tingling or weakness
  • Pale, cold skin

Prevention

Most hip problems are difficult to predict or prevent, but keeping your child’s bones healthy and strong can reduce their risk for future problems. It is important to provide your child with a nutrient-rich diet including Vitamin D and calcium to strengthen bone density. Calcium is found in dairy products, such as milk, cheese, and yogurt; dark green, leafy vegetables, such as broccoli; and other foods. Avoid giving your child excessive amounts of soda, as caffeine is known to cause increased calcium loss.

Encourage your child to maintain an active lifestyle. Playing outdoors and sports are great ways to increase their exercise.

Preparing for your Appointment

When consulting a doctor about your child’s hip problem, be prepared to answer the following questions:

  • What are your child’s main symptoms? How long has your child had symptoms?
  • Has your child had this problem in the past? If so, do you know what caused the problem at that time? How was it treated?
  • Does your child limp or complain about pain when he or she walks? Where is the pain felt? How far can your child walk without pain? Does the pain get better or worse as he or she continues to walk?
  • Has your child had any recent illness or fever?
  • What activities make your child’s symptoms better or worse?
  • What activities does your child do? Has your child recently started a new activity?
  • What home treatment measures have you tried? Did they help?
  • What prescription or nonprescription medicines has your child taken? Did they help?
  • Does your child have any health risks that may increase the seriousness of his or her hip symptoms?

Related Topics

Developmental Dysplasia of the Hip
Hip Injuries, Age 11 and Younger
Groin Problems and Injuries
Hip Fracture

Other Helpful Sources

Web MD
Everyday Health