What is irritable hip?

Irritable hip is a prevalent childhood condition that triggers symptoms such as limping and hip pain. Generally, the pain is not intense but the child might be unwilling to place any weight on the affected leg.

In some instances, the condition might also cause:

  • Thigh or knee pain
  • Limited movement in one of the hip joints
  • Temperature that is slightly higher than normal, usually around 37 degrees C

Among younger children who could not speak, the only evident symptom might be crying at night.

What is the cause?


The condition often develops once the lining covering the hip joint is irritated and inflamed, although the cause of inflammation is vague.

The condition often develops once the lining covering the hip joint is irritated and inflamed, although the cause of inflammation is vague.

In some cases of irritable hip, it arises after a viral infection in the throat, chest or digestive tract. Most experts believe that the synovial membrane in the hip is inflamed as a complication of an infection. Nevertheless, there is limited proof.

Another potential theory is that a hip injury might be responsible for the swelling, but most cases develop among children who do not have a history of injuries.

Who are at risk?

Irritable hip can develop in both girls and boys at any age but prevalent between the ages of 4-10 years old. It is important to note that the condition arises most often among boys than girls.

When to see a doctor

Even though irritable hip is generally mild, a doctor must be consulted if worried about the hip of the child so that a diagnosis can be confirmed.

Remember that irritable hip has shares symptoms with worrisome hip ailments such as Perthes disease or even septic arthritis.

The doctor assesses the hip and might suggest further testing to exclude other potential causes. The commonly used tests include:

  • X-ray to check for issues with the bones of the child
  • Blood tests to check for joint or bone infection
  • Ultrasound scan to highlight any fluid that has accumulated on the joint

In case there is fluid in the joint, a sample is taken and analyzed for infection.


Pain medications, specifically ibuprofen can be given to lessen the pain and inflammation. Make sure that the child rests the affected leg until the symptoms settled.

Massage the affected hip and application of heat can also help reduce the hip pain. In most cases, it typically takes several weeks to recover from irritable hip, but the doctor might suggest avoidance of any sport or engage in any rigorous activities for at least another 2 weeks after treatment. This aims to lessen the chances for irritable hip to recur.

Swimming is also an ideal way to strengthen the joint and allow it to move again. A follow-up appointment might be required after 6 months. This is needed to exclude other hip conditions that also trigger stiffness, pain and limping.