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Hip Fracture Symptoms, Signs, Causes and Treatments

Hip fractures are a common and serious injury that can have significant consequences for individuals of all ages. A hip fracture occurs when there is a break in the upper part of the femur, or thigh bone, near the hip joint. This type of injury is particularly important to understand due to its impact on mobility and overall quality of life.

By Able Health I Medically reviewed by Dr. Alireza Estedlal

Page last reviewed: February 2024 I Next review due: February 2026


  • Hip fractures are a common injury, especially in older adults.
  • The hip joint is complex, and understanding its anatomy can help prevent injury.
  • Falls are the most common cause of hip fractures, but other factors, such as osteoporosis, can also increase risk.
  • Symptoms of a hip fracture include pain, swelling, and difficulty moving the affected leg.
  • Treatment options for hip fractures include surgery, rehabilitation, and lifestyle changes to prevent future injury.

Understanding the Anatomy of the Hip Joint

To fully comprehend the implications of a hip fracture, it is essential to have a basic understanding of the anatomy of the hip joint. The hip joint is a ball-and-socket joint that connects the femur to the pelvis. It is one of the largest joints in the body and allows for a wide range of motion. The bones involved in the hip joint include the femur, which forms the ball, and the acetabulum, which forms the socket. In addition to bones, several muscles and ligaments surround and support the hip joint, providing stability and facilitating movement.

Common Causes of Hip Fractures

Hip fractures can occur as a result of various causes, with trauma-related incidents being one of the most common. Falls, particularly among older adults, are a leading cause of hip fractures. Osteoporosis, a condition characterized by weakened bones, also increases the risk of hip fractures. Other medical conditions, such as cancer or certain medications, can contribute to bone fragility and increase susceptibility to fractures.

Who is at Risk for Hip Fractures?

While anyone can sustain a hip fracture, certain factors increase an individual's risk.

  • Age is a significant risk factor, with older adults being more prone to hip fractures due to factors such as decreased bone density and balance issues.
  • Gender also plays a role, as women tend to have higher rates of osteoporosis and are more likely to experience hip fractures.
  • Other risk factors include a family history of fractures, smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, and certain medical conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis.

Symptoms of a Hip Fracture

Recognizing the symptoms of a hip fracture is crucial for prompt diagnosis and treatment. The most common symptom is severe pain in the hip or groin area, which may worsen with movement. Individuals with a hip fracture often find it impossible to bear weight on the affected leg and may experience difficulty walking or standing. Other symptoms can include swelling, bruising, and stiffness around the hip joint.

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Signs of a Hip Fracture

In addition to symptoms, there are physical signs that healthcare professionals look for when suspecting a hip fracture. These signs can include visible deformity or shortening of the leg on the affected side. The affected leg may also appear to be turned outward or inward compared to the unaffected leg. Imaging tests such as X-rays or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans are commonly used to confirm the diagnosis.

Diagnosing a Hip Fracture

Diagnosing a hip fracture involves a combination of medical history, physical examination, and imaging tests. The healthcare provider will inquire about the circumstances surrounding the injury and any associated symptoms. A physical examination will be conducted to assess range of motion, strength, and stability of the hip joint. Imaging tests, such as X-rays or MRI scans, are essential for confirming the presence of a fracture and determining its severity.

Complications of a Hip Fracture

Hip fractures can lead to various complications that can significantly impact an individual's health and well-being. One common complication is deep vein thrombosis (DVT), which occurs when blood clots form in the veins of the legs. Infections, pressure sores, and pneumonia are also potential complications due to immobility during recovery. Additionally, individuals who experience a hip fracture may face long-term mobility issues and an increased risk of future fractures.

Treatment Options for Hip Fractures

The treatment approach for hip fractures depends on several factors, including the type and severity of the fracture, the individual's overall health, and their personal preferences. Non-surgical treatment options may be considered for certain cases, such as when the fracture is stable or in individuals who are not suitable candidates for surgery. Surgical treatment options, on the other hand, are often necessary to realign and stabilize the fractured bones.

Surgery for Hip Fractures

Surgery is a common approach for treating hip fractures, particularly in cases where stability cannot be achieved through non-surgical means. There are different types of surgery that may be performed depending on the specific fracture and the individual's overall health. These can include internal fixation, where screws or plates are used to hold the fractured bones together, or hip replacement surgery, which involves replacing the damaged hip joint with an artificial joint.

Rehabilitation and Recovery after a Hip Fracture

Rehabilitation and recovery play a crucial role in restoring mobility and function after a hip fracture. Physical therapy is often recommended to help individuals regain strength, improve balance, and relearn how to walk properly. Other rehabilitation options may include occupational therapy to assist with activities of daily living and assistive devices such as crutches or walkers to aid mobility during the recovery process.

Preventing Hip Fractures

Prevention is key when it comes to reducing the risk of hip fractures. Lifestyle changes can significantly contribute to maintaining bone health and reducing the likelihood of fractures. Regular weight-bearing exercises, a balanced diet rich in calcium and vitamin D, and avoiding smoking and excessive alcohol consumption are all important measures to consider. Medical interventions such as bone density screenings and appropriate medications can also help reduce the risk of hip fractures.

In conclusion, understanding hip fractures is essential due to their impact on individuals' mobility and overall well-being. By comprehending the anatomy of the hip joint, common causes, risk factors, symptoms, and treatment options, individuals can be better equipped to prevent and manage hip fractures. Prompt diagnosis, appropriate treatment, and comprehensive rehabilitation are crucial for optimal recovery and long-term outcomes. By prioritizing prevention and taking proactive measures to maintain bone health, individuals can reduce their risk of experiencing a hip fracture and enjoy a higher quality of life.

What is a hip fracture?

A hip fracture is a break in the upper part of the thigh bone (femur) that forms the hip joint.

What are the symptoms of a hip fracture?

The symptoms of a hip fracture include severe pain in the hip or groin area, inability to bear weight on the affected leg, swelling and bruising around the hip, and a shortened or twisted leg.

What are the causes of a hip fracture?

The most common causes of hip fractures are falls, especially in older adults with weakened bones due to osteoporosis. Other causes include car accidents, sports injuries, and direct trauma to the hip.

How is a hip fracture diagnosed?

A hip fracture is usually diagnosed through a physical examination, X-rays, and other imaging tests such as CT scans or MRI.

What are the treatments for a hip fracture?

The treatment for a hip fracture usually involves surgery to repair or replace the broken bone. Other treatments may include pain management, physical therapy, and medications to prevent complications such as blood clots or infections.

What is the recovery time for a hip fracture?

The recovery time for a hip fracture can vary depending on the severity of the injury and the individual's overall health. It may take several months for a full recovery, and physical therapy may be necessary to regain strength and mobility in the affected leg.