Irritable Hip

An irritable hip, also known as acute transient synovitis, is a common disorder of childhood characterised by the onset of hip pain and limping. The term transient means that it does not usually last long. It usually occurs before puberty and affects only one hip. Boys aged between 4 to 10 years are most often affected 2 to 4 times more than girls.


A child with irritable hip will experience the following symptoms:

  • Hip pain
  • Limping
  • Pain may spread to the groin, thigh and knee
  • Abnormal crawling
  • Abnormal crying
  • A slight fever


The exact cause of an irritable hip is unknown, but in some cases, the condition can occur because of viral infection (upper respiratory tract), or a fall or injury. An irritable hip can also occur because of Perthes disease, a condition where the head of the thighbone deteriorates because of poor blood supply. 


The diagnosis of an irritable hip is made based on your child’s symptoms and physical examination. To rule out other possible causes of your child’s symptoms, the following diagnostic tests may be ordered:

  • X-rays: To detect any problem with your child’s bone
  • Blood tests: To determine a bone or joint infection
  • An ultrasound scan: To obtain an image of the affected hip joint and detect any fluid on the joint


The treatment of irritable hip includes medications and bed rest. Painkillers or anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are prescribed to help relieve pain and reduce inflammation. Your child’s doctor may prescribe some specific medications depending on the type of infection detected in your child. Applying heat and massaging the affected hip may also help in reducing hip pain. 

Swimming is a great exercise to strengthen and regain the movement of the hip joint.

Luton and Dunstable University Hospital
  • Spire Healthcare
  • OSD Healthcare
  • The London Clini
  • One Hatfield Hospital
  • The Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh