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Chiropractic Care for Babies with Hip Dysplasia

Published Date: 
September 22, 2023
Woman doing hip exercises with infant.

Hip dysplasia occurs when the hip socket doesn’t cover the ball of the upper thighbone, and the hip joint dislocates partially or fully. In most cases, people are born with hip dysplasia (developmental dysplasia of the hip or DDH), and evaluation for the disorder is usually part of early infancy medical exams.

Developmental hip dysplasia can range from mild to severe. Mild cases might not cause symptoms, at least not until someone reaches adolescence or adulthood. Over time, hip dysplasia damages the joint’s lining and can hurt the cartilage that rims the hip joint socket.

Although some doctors recommend surgery to treat hip dysplasia, many cases can be resolved using braces or harnesses, as well as chiropractic treatment.

Infant Developmental Dysplasia of the Hip (DDH)

DDH occurs when the hip joint of a newborn baby is prone to dislocation. Female infants experience DDH more often than males. The condition is present at birth and causes an abnormal relationship between the femoral head and the acetabulum. A baby with congenital hip dysplasia has a shallow hip socket, which allows the femoral head (the head of the thigh bone) to slip in and out.

Signs & Symptoms of Infant Hip Dysplasia

There might not be any symptoms in very mild cases of hip dysplasia. However, one of the most common symptoms is having one leg longer than the other. Some parents notice that one hip is more flexible than the other while changing their child’s diaper.

If developmental hip dysplasia is not treated early enough, it can affect a child’s ability to walk without a limp.

If you suspect your child has DDH, it is important to consult with a pediatrician, pediatric orthopedic specialist, or other qualified healthcare professional who specializes in treating children with hip conditions. They can evaluate your child for this type of congenital hip dislocation, perform appropriate diagnostic tests, and recommend the most suitable treatment options, which may include various forms of medical intervention, physical therapy, or in some cases, surgery.

DDH Risk Factors

There are a few things that increase a baby’s risk of DDH. These things include:

Diagnosing DDH

Diagnosis typically occurs during well-baby visits as part of a routine physical examination. During the physical exam, your child’s healthcare provider will move their legs to determine if the joint fits together in the proper position.

It can be challenging to diagnose mild cases of hip dysplasia. For some people, symptoms don’t arise until early adulthood. If your child’s doctor suspects hip dysplasia, they might order suggested imaging tests, such as X-rays or MRI.

Treating Infant Hip Dysplasia without Surgery

Common recommendations for treatment include:

Harnesses & Braces

Moderate to severe cases of infant hip dysplasia are usually treated with a Pavlik harness or brace. It’s a safe and effective treatment option to get a baby’s legs in the correct position to encourage better hip development. This device is usually used from birth to about four months of age.

Baby wearing a Pavlik harness to correct hip dysplasia.

Casting is another treatment option. A cast called a hip spica cast encourages the proper formation of the hip joint.

Pediatric Chiropractic Care & Physical Therapy

In addition to harnesses and braces, many parents use chiropractic care as a nonsurgical treatment to help their baby’s hip joint. Chiropractic care restores joint function, stimulates the nervous system, and strengthens core muscles, promoting healthy hip development.

Mom doing hip exercises with her baby.

Chiropractors can perform routine development assessments for infants during a physical examination, allowing them to determine if hip joint development might be a concern. Sometimes, lifestyle changes and exercise are enough to help the hip joint correct itself.

Nonsurgical treatment options used by chiropractors to treat this hip problem include:

  • Manipulative therapy
  • Mobilization of the joints
  • Exercise and physical therapy
  • Soft tissue treatment, including massage


Chiropractor treating a six-month-old for hip dysplasia.

Hip dysplasia can be a cause for serious concern if it’s not treated early enough. Working with a chiropractor, your child’s pediatrician, and other healthcare professionals allows for early diagnosis and treatment of hip dysplasia.

Dr. Eric Neumann D.C.

Dr. Eric Neumann grew up in Alberta, Canada where he majored in Chemistry at the University of Calgary. During his time at University, he obtained licensure as a Massage Therapist. It was clear that hands-on healing would be his calling. After suffering multiple sport-related injuries he became interested in Chiropractic. Dr. Neumann graduated from Western States Chiropractic College in 2009. He has since specialized in the treatment and management of acute spinal injuries.

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