First Time User? Enroll now.
COVID-19: Vaccine information, visitor restrictions, and additional resources | Medicaid: The program is changing and you must take steps to keep your UNC Health providers
Home > Health Library > Hip Problems, Age 11 and Younger
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:
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 surgery.
Check your child's symptoms to decide if and when your child should see a doctor.
Many things can affect how your body responds to a symptom and what kind of care you may need. These include:
You have answered all the questions. Based on your answers, you may be able to take care of this problem at home.
Pain in children 3 years and older
Pain in children under 3 years
It can be hard to tell how much pain a baby or toddler is in.
Symptoms of infection may include:
Certain health conditions and medicines weaken the immune system's ability to fight off infection and illness. Some examples in children are:
If there is a difference between the child's hips, you may notice that:
Based on your answers, you may need care right away. The problem is likely to get worse without medical care.
Based on your answers, you may need care soon. The problem probably will not get better without medical care.
Based on your answers, the problem may not improve without medical care.
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.
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 medicine.
Be sure to follow these safety tips when you use a nonprescription medicine:
If your child has a cast, see cast care tips.
Call your child's doctor if any of the following occur during home treatment:
Most of the problems that can affect a child's hips or cause a child to limp can't be prevented. The following tips can help keep your child's bones healthy and strong.
To prepare for your appointment, see the topicMaking the Most of Your Appointment.
You can help your doctor diagnose and treat your child's condition by being prepared to answer the following questions:
Current as of: July 1, 2021
Author: Healthwise StaffMedical Review: William H. Blahd Jr. MD, FACEP - Emergency MedicineAdam Husney MD - Family MedicineKathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine
Current as of: July 1, 2021
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:William H. Blahd Jr. MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine & Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine & Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine
To learn more about Healthwise, visit Healthwise.org.
© 1995-2021 Healthwise, Incorporated. Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.