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.

Causes of hip pain in children

A condition called irritable hip is the most common cause of hip pain in children. This is where the hip joint becomes sore and inflamed.

Irritable hip can be painful, but it's not usually serious and often gets better by itself.

Other possible causes of hip pain in children include:

  • an infected hip joint (septic arthritis)
  • an injury like a broken bone
  • a problem with the hip bones and blood supply to the hip joint (Perthes' disease)

These other causes are less common but more serious.

Ask for an urgent GP appointment or get help from NHS 111 if:

  • your child gets sudden pain in their hip, thigh or knee (hip problems can sometimes be felt in the thigh or knee)
  • your child is limping or cannot put any weight on 1 leg

You can call 111 or get help from 111 online.

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 usually gets better in 1 or 2 weeks and does not cause lasting problems.

If your child has irritable hip, you can usually look after them at home. Sometimes they may need to stay in hospital for a few days if they're in a lot of pain.

Treatment for irritable hip


  • make sure they rest their leg until they're feeling better – keep them off nursery or school until they're recovered

  • give them children's ibuprofen or children's paracetamol for their pain

  • attend any follow-up appointments recommended by your doctor or nurse

Treatment for irritable hip


  • 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)

Treatment for irritable hip

Take your child back to the GP or hospital if:

  • their pain is getting worse or has not improved
  • they get a high temperature or feel hot and shivery
  • 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.