What is hip problems and injuries?

Hip Problems and Injuries
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Hip problems in children: Overview

A hip problem can be hard to deal with, both for the child who has the problem and for 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 they 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's 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 doesn't 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

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:

  • An inflammatory reaction, such as transient or toxic synovitis. This often occurs after the child has had a cold or other upper respiratory infection. It's the most common cause of hip pain in children.
  • A slipped capital femoral epiphysis. This occurs when the upper end of the thighbone (head of the femur) slips at the growth plate (epiphysis) and doesn't fit in the hip socket correctly.
  • Legg-Calve-Perthes disease. It's a disorder of the head of the femur. It's caused by decreased blood flow to this area.
  • An inward twisting of the thighbone (femoral anteversion). This condition causes the knees and feet to turn inward. The child will look "pigeon-toed" and may have a clumsy walk.
  • Developmental dysplasia of the hip (DDH). It's caused by a problem in the development of the hip joint. The top of the femur doesn't fit correctly into the hip socket (acetabulum). The femur can partly or completely slip out of the socket.
  • Juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA). It causes inflamed, swollen joints that are often stiff and painful.
  • Infection in the joint (septic arthritis), the bursa (septic bursitis), or the hip or pelvic bone (osteomyelitis).
  • In rare cases, cancer of the bone, such as osteosarcoma.

Treatment may include first aid and using a brace, cast, harness, or traction. It may also include physical therapy and medicines. In some cases, surgery is needed. Treatment for a hip problem depends on:

  • The location and type of injury, and how bad it is.
  • The child's age, general health, and activity level.

How can you care for yourself when you have a hip injury?

Try the following tips to help relieve hip pain, swelling, and stiffness.

  • Rest.

    Try to rest and protect an injured or sore area. Stop, change, or take a break from any activity that may be causing your pain or soreness.

  • Sleep on the hip that isn't injured.

    Put a pillow between your knees. Or sleep on your back with pillows under your knees.

  • Don't use aspirin for the first 24 hours after an injury.

    Aspirin may cause more bruising under the skin.

  • Avoid more swelling.

    For the first 48 hours after an injury, avoid things that might increase swelling. These things include hot showers, hot tubs, hot packs, and drinks that contain alcohol.

  • Apply heat.
    • After 2 or 3 days, you can try applying heat to the area that hurts. Types of heat therapy include microwavable packs and disposable heating patches.
    • Apply heat for 10 to 20 minutes at a time.
    • You might also try switching between cold and heat.
  • Start normal activities and gentle stretching.

    After 48 to 72 hours, if swelling is gone, you can carefully start doing normal activities and gentle stretching, such as:

    • Prone buttocks squeeze. This strengthens the buttocks muscles. It supports your back and helps you lift with your legs.
    • Pelvic tilts. These stretch the lower back.
    • Hamstring stretch. It stretches the muscles in the back of the thigh.
    • Hip flexor stretch. It stretches the muscles in the hip that help the hip glide and work smoothly.
  • Rub the area.

    Gently massage or rub your hip to relieve pain and encourage blood flow. Don't massage the injured area if it causes pain.

  • Don't smoke or use other tobacco products.

    Smoking slows healing because it decreases blood supply and delays tissue repair.

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The content above contains general health information provided by Healthwise, Incorporated, and reviewed by its medical experts. This content should not replace the advice of your healthcare provider. Not all treatments or services described are offered as services by us. For recommended treatments, please consult your healthcare provider.