Causes of a limp
Many things can cause a limp. The causes often vary according to age.
Obvious causes of limping include bruising to your child’s leg or foot, an ankle sprain, a tight shoe, or a wart on the sole of your child’s foot.
In preschoolers, the most common cause of limping is a viral infection. This is called ‘irritable hip’.
More serious causes of limping might include a fracture, cerebral palsy, developmental dysplasia of the hip, a bone or joint infection, or arthritis. Bone tumours can also cause a limp, but these tumours are rare.
Symptoms of a limp
If your child has a limp, they’ll put more weight on the leg that doesn’t hurt when they walk. They’ll put as little weight as possible on the leg that hurts. It will look like they’re walking in an unusual way.
A limp can change the way your child’s muscles work. It might make the muscles ache because they’re under increased strain.
If the limp is caused by an infection, your child will usually have a fever, and they might be irritable and not eat well.
Medical help: when to get it for children who are limping
If your child limps for more than a day and there’s no obvious cause like a tight shoe or something in their shoe, you should take your child to see your GP as soon as possible.
You should also see your GP if your child:
- has an unexplained fever
- refuses to walk at all
- has obvious swelling on part of the hip or leg, especially around a joint.
Tests for a limp
Depending on your child’s symptoms, your GP might order some blood tests or some imaging tests of the leg that your child is limping with. These tests might include an X-ray, an ultrasound or even a bone scan.
Treatment for a limp
Treatment for a limp depends on its cause.
If your child is limping and in pain, you can give them some pain relief – for example, paracetamol or ibuprofen.
If your child has a minor injury, they might need to rest.
If your child has irritable hip, they need to rest. Your child also needs careful follow-up to check that their symptoms are improving.
For more serious problems, your GP might refer your child to a specialist for further assessment and treatment.