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Developmental Hip Dysplasia, what is it, how to recognise it in your baby and what can we do about it?

Posted by Reena Murray on
Hip dysplasia

Developmental Hip Dysplasia (sometimes called a ‘clicky hip’) refers to an abnormal development of the hip joint in infants and children. This occurs when ball of the hip (the femoral head) is not stable within the socket of the pelvis (the acetabulum). This can be due to a slight flattening of the ball, a shallow socket and/or loose ligaments surrounding the hip joint.

This condition is found in 1 in 6 newborn babies, with girls being more often affected than boys.

Hip Dysplaisa

What are the causes?

The main cause is a combination of loose ligaments and abnormal bone growth or development.

Hip dysplasia is often though not always present at birth. Some of the risk factors for hip dysplasia are:

  • Breech position after 32 weeks (bottom down or feet first) in utero
  • Family history of hip dysplasia
  • Incorrect swaddling techniques
  • First born

How to recognise the condition in your baby:

There are several easy-to-recognise signs of hip dysplasia.

  • Clicking or clunking when moving the hip
  • Uneven thigh or buttock skin creases
  • Uneven leg length
  • Weight-bearing to one side when sitting
  • Avoidance of weight bearing altogether
  • Limping or pain when walking
  • Walking on tip-toes on one side
  • Legs that are difficult to spread apart

How I can help your baby if it they have hip dysplasia?

All babies undergo a newborn screen for hip dysplasia. These will often be repeated over the first few months of their life. If your baby has a positive test for hip dysplasia they will require closer monitoring and repeat ultrasounds over a period of several months to ensure the hip is developing normally.

As and Advanced Paediatric Osteopath I can perform these tests, provide treatment and advise, liase with you Paediatrician or GP if applicable to request further imaging or referral. For cases that are mild-to-moderate they can be managed conservatively with gentle hands on manual therapy, home exercises and positioning advice. 

Should the hip dysplasia be more severe and further intervention needed I may also refer you to our qualified orthotist for harnessing (Eg. Pavlik Harness) or bracing. More severe cases may need referral to an orthopedic surgeon for surgical intervention.

Some handy tips to help manage your baby’s hip dysplasia.

  • Let your baby’s legs and hips sit in their natural position where possible (i.e. knees bent and turned out at the hips).
  • Avoid tight swaddling wherever possible - this restricts leg movement.
  • Avoid any car seats or carriers that bring your baby’s legs in together at the knees.
  • Baby-wearing in a carrier such as the Ergo or Manduca can assist with mild cases of hip dysplasia. Carrying your baby facing your chest, with knees bent out and up helps naturally encourage the formation of a deeper hip socket.

To discuss these options and to make an appointment please call (02) 4655 5588. I am available to consult from my rooms in South West Sydney and the
Illawarra region, or by online consultation for certain conditions.

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