What is a Hip Fracture?
A hip fracture is a break of one of the bones that comprise the hip joint. A break of the top of the thigh bone (femur) results in a hip fracture. A break to the pelvic bone is less common and is not categorized as a hip fracture. Hip fractures are more common in women than men.
What Causes Hip Fracture?
Hip fractures are more common in the elderly population as a result of weakening of the bones over time. If a hip fracture is found in a younger individual, it will likely be the result of a traumatic injury. The causes of a hip fracture are many and varied and can consist of the following:
- A car accident
- Fall from a significant height
- A sports related injury
- Weakening of bones due to ageing or osteoporosis
- Certain diseases that can affect the nourishment that your bones receive and make you more prone to breaking a bone such as an endocrine disorder, an overactive thyroid, and intestinal disorders
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Hip Fracture Symptoms
The symptoms of a hip fracture can range from mild to severe. If not promptly diagnosed and treated, hip fractures can lead to serious life-threatening complications. Hip fracture symptoms may include any or all of the following:
- Mild to severe pain in the hip or groin
- An inability to stand up after suffering a fall
- Swelling, erythema (reddening of skin) and bruising
- Inability to place weight on the hip
- A leg length discrepancy generally consisting of a shorter leg on the side of the injury
- Inappropriate positioning of the hip joint which may entail an outwardly turned leg
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Hip Fracture Treatment
Treatment for a hip fracture will depend on an accurate diagnosis in order to determine the severity and type of the break. An accurate diagnosis will involve imaging techniques that can provide internal images of the hip joint. These can include X-rays, MRIs, and CT scans. Generally, a fracture of the hip will require surgical intervention in order to correct the injury. The type and extent of surgery will be individual based on the specifics of your injury in order to place the fractured bone into proper positioning and allow healing to occur. After your surgery and when your surgeon is confident that enough healing has taken place, a course of physical therapy will be ordered to restore range of motion and strength of the hip.
In some cases, surgery will not be indicated. This will be the case of a fracture that is considered stable and your doctor is confident that it will be able to heal with conservative measures. In some elderly patients with other underlying conditions, surgery may not be a safe option. In this rare case, decreasing pain and improving function as much as possible will be the goal of treatment. In order to lessen the risk of a hip fracture, be mindful of these tips:
- Strengthen the muscles and bones of the hip and surrounding structures with resistance training
- Perform weight-bearing activities everyday as this will help to strengthen bones
- Stop smoking and avoid excessive alcohol use
- Decrease clutter in the home in order to avoid falls
- Avoid the use of area rugs or make sure that they have a non-skid backing to make sure that they stay in place and decrease your likelihood of tripping