A guide to hip fractures, including causes, symptoms and treatments
Hip fractures are a common source of pain and mobility problems, especially among people as they get older. The most frequent cause of fractured hips are falls among patients 65 or older, but they can happen to younger people who experience trauma or a sports-related injury. Surgery is typically required for the successful treatment of hip fractures, but in a small number cases, the condition can improve on its own with the help of conservative therapies.
Take a moment to learn more about hip fractures, including the causes, symptoms, diagnostic process and treatments, including surgery. Our team is here to help and we encourage you to reach out if you have any questions or would like more information.
What causes hip fractures?
The hip joints connect the upper body to the legs, making them a critical part of the musculoskeletal system that enables basic movement. This means we put a high degree of stress on our hips on a daily basis. This stress, combined with a loss of coordination and weakening bones is why falls can so often lead to a fractured hip among the elderly population.
Other causes of hip fractures can include repetitive motion injuries that lead to stress fractures. This is particularly common among endurance athletes such as distance runners. Although less common, hip fractures can also occur as a result of trauma caused by a high impact, such as an automobile accident or a tackle.
These kinds of fractures can occur in both the upper femur, or ball of the hip, or the socket in the pelvis. A very common location is the thin part of the femur immediately below the ball, known as the femoral neck.
Symptoms of a hip fracture
Hip fractures are usually immediately painful upon impact, with the pain being localized to the upper leg and groin area. After the fracture, patients will generally be unable to stand or put weight on the affected leg. However, patients should be able to move the lower extremities in most cases of hip fractures, as long as there is not a fracture at a different point.
Stress fractures of the hip may be harder to pinpoint and are often first experienced as mild upper leg or groin pain that gradually worsens. Any symptoms should be diagnosed as soon as possible, as prompt treatment is required for any type of hip fracture to heal properly and not worsen.
Diagnosing hip fractures
Patients with acute hip fractures are frequently transported by ambulance to an emergency room or urgent care facility where they receive a diagnosis. The physician will perform a visual examination and try to get as much information as possible about the injury. He or she will also review the patient’s medical history to find out if there are any conditions that could increase the likelihood of a hip fracture occurring, such as osteoporosis. In most cases, X-rays will be used to confirm diagnosis of a hip fracture and identify the exact location of the break.
In the event of stress fractures in the hip, patients may visit a physician complaining of hip, groin and/or leg pain. The doctor will then perform similar steps, including a hands-on examination and discussion of symptoms and regular activities to determine if a hip fracture or other injury is the source of pain and mobility.
Once a hip fracture diagnosis is confirmed, patients can then begin to discuss treatment options, which very often involve surgery.
Can hip fractures be treated with conservative options?
In a relatively small number of cases, a minor fracture that does not involve displacement or misalignment in younger and healthy patients can be treated without the need for hip surgery. Patients will be ordered to rest, use crutches to avoid putting weight on the hip when movement is needed and take medication as needed to manage pain.
After the fracture heals, physical therapy and rehabilitation can help strengthen the hip and increase healthy range of motion. Not only is this important for regaining hip function, but it can also prevent reinjury or compensatory injury as normal activities are resumed.
What are Surgery Options for a Fractured Hip?
For most patients dealing with hip fractures, surgeons will recommend a hip surgery. This procedure should be performed as quickly as possible, usually within days of the diagnosis.
The type of procedure that will be performed depends on the location and severity of the fracture. In some cases, the bone can be reset with hardware, but in other situations a full or partial hip replacement may be required. This is especially true in older patients with deterioration in the joint.
Surgeons are often able to perform hip replacement procedures for fractures with techniques and technology designed to limit the disruption of surrounding soft tissue. This allows for an outpatient procedure and the ability for patients to become mobile and begin the important rehabilitation process on a shorter time frame. After surgery, it is crucial for patients to become mobile and begin moving the hip as early as safely possible. Physical therapy and rehabilitation is absolutely critical to this process for patients recovering from hip surgery.
Reach out to the USA Spine Care team for more information
At our state-of-the-art facilities, our caring and experienced team of treatment professionals help patients dealing with hip fractures start their journey toward relief. To learn more about our wide assortment of treatment options, contact us today.
Call toll free 1-866-249-1627 to speak with a patient care representative.