The hip forms a ball and socket joint (ball-shaped surface of one bone fits into the cup-like depression of another bone) between the femur (thigh bone) and pelvis (hip bone). This joint allows free movement of the upper leg, such as bending and rotation.
A fracture to this region is a serious injury resulting from a partial or complete break in the upper part of the femur bone. The fractures that fall in the category of hip fractures are the ones that take place on the femur, and not on the pelvis. Hip fractures occur predominantly in women and in the elderly, aged 65 years or older.
The majority of the risk factors for hip fractures are associated with bone loss. Some of the risk factors include the following:
- Age: As a person ages, the vulnerability to fractures increases due to bone deterioration.
- Gender: As women are more prone to osteoporosis during old age, they are at a greater risk of developing hip fractures.
- Nutrition: Poor nutrition, in the form of diets containing insufficient amounts of calcium and vitamin D during youth, increases the susceptibility to hip fracture later in life.
- Heredity: Having family members with osteoporosis or broken bones in later life places one at a higher risk for a hip fracture.
- Lifestyle: Persons leading a sedentary life coupled with smoking and excessive alcohol use have weakened bones, and are more likely to develop a hip fracture.
The most common cause for a hip fracture is a fall. Severe impact vehicular accidents and sports injuries can also cause hip fractures. Some of the other causes include osteoporosis (weakening of bones), medical conditions involving problems with balance, and consumption of certain medicines that may lead to bone loss.
When you fracture your hip, you are most likely to experience difficulty in moving. Other signs and symptoms include stiffness, bruising and swelling in and around the hip area, pain in the hip and groin, shortening of the length of the leg on the affected side, and inability to put weight or pressure on the affected hip and leg.
Your doctor will diagnose a hip fracture with the help of X-rays, MRI or CT scans.
Your doctor would consider your age and physical condition while deciding on an appropriate treatment plan for you. If your fracture is stable, your doctor may suggest bed rest until the bones heal.
Treatment may involve a combination of surgery, medication and rehabilitation. Surgery may be done to either repair or replace your hip with an artificial hip. Metal screws, plates, rods and other implants may be surgically inserted to hold the bones together as they heal. Medication would most often involve pain killers and bone density-enhancing medication. Surgery is most often followed by rehabilitation, when a physical therapist will teach you strengthening and range of motion exercises to improve your mobility and flexibility.