Limping in children
Limping in children is not usually serious and could be caused by something minor like a sprain or strain. But you should see a GP if it's not obvious what's causing it.
Causes of limping in children
Limping in children is often caused by an obvious injury to the leg or foot, such as:
Sometimes it may not be clear what's causing your child to limp. The symptoms might give you an idea of what the cause might be.
But do not self-diagnose – a limp with no obvious cause should always be checked by a GP as it could be a sign of something serious.
|Other symptoms||Possible cause|
|Sudden pain in the hip, knee or thigh, sometimes after a viral infection||Irritable hip|
|Pain in the groin, hip or knee, stiff hip, foot or leg turns inward||Slipped upper femoral epiphysis|
|Painful, swollen joints that lasts for longer than 6 weeks||Different types of juvenile arthritis|
|Pain in the groin, thigh or knee after exercise, stiff hip||Perthes' disease|
|A lump on your child's leg, weight loss, pain at night||A cancer, such as leukaemia, sarcoma or lymphoma|
Non-urgent advice: See a GP if:
- your child has a limp and you're not sure what's causing it
Immediate action required: Call 999 or go to A&E if:
- your child gets sudden pain in their hip, knee or thigh (hip problems can sometimes be felt in the thigh or knee)
- your child cannot put any weight on their leg
- the leg has changed shape or is pointing at an odd angle
- your child feels generally unwell and has a high temperature or feels hot and shivery
- your child also has severe pain in the lower part of their tummy
- your child's symptoms get worse
What we mean by severe pain
- Severe pain:
- always there and so bad it's hard to think or talk
- you cannot sleep
- it's very hard to move, get out of bed, go to the bathroom, wash or dress
- Moderate pain:
- always there
- makes it hard to concentrate or sleep
- you can manage to get up, wash or dress
- Mild pain:
- comes and goes
- is annoying but does not stop you doing daily activities
Treatment from a GP
Treatment will depend on what's causing your child to limp. Sometimes it may get better on its own.
A GP will examine your child and may arrange for more tests to find out what's causing your child to limp.
- give you advice on how to treat a sprain or strain at home, such as rest and taking paracetamol or ibuprofen
- refer you to hospital for an X-ray or to a specialist (for example, a paediatric orthopaedic surgeon) to help find the cause
Page last reviewed: 6 January 2022
Next review due: 6 January 2025