In this section
Transient synovitis (sin-oh-vie-tis), commonly called irritable hip, is the most common cause of limping in children. It is due to inflammation (swelling) of the lining of the hip joint.
In most cases of irritable hip, your child will have recently recovered from a viral infection. Sometimes, the condition occurs after a fall or injury.
Irritable hip is most often seen in children aged between three and 10 years old. It is not serious, and will get better on its own with rest.
If your child has irritable hip:
Some children may just be refusing to walk, without explanation. Usually only one side is affected. Children with irritable hip are otherwise well.
A small number of children with irritable hip go on to have further episodes.
Usually, no tests are required for irritable hip, and you can care for your child at home.
Irritable hip is a mild condition that will get better on its own. Complete rest is usually all that is needed. It should start to improve in about three days and be better in two weeks.
Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen, are helpful for irritable hip as they relieve the pain as well as reducing inflammation. Give the ibuprofen according to packet directions regularly for 48 hours. Paracetamol may also help with reducing the pain. Never give aspirin
to children under the age of 12. See our fact sheet
Pain relief for children.
Antibiotics are not given as the condition is not caused by a bacterial infection.
While your child is recovering:
Take your child to the GP if your child:
If my child has had irritable hip, should I take him to a
physiotherapist to get exercises so it won’t happen again?
Irritable hip cannot be prevented with any exercises, so
seeing a physiotherapist is not usually required.
What is the likelihood of this occurring again in my child?
We estimate the recurrence
rate is about 10 per cent. This means that one in 10 children will experience
another episode of irritable hip.
Developed by The Royal Children's Hospital Emergency department. We acknowledge the input of RCH consumers and carers.
Reviewed March 2018.
This information is awaiting routine review. Please always seek the most recent advice from a registered and practising clinician.
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