A hip fracture happens when the upper part of the thighbone breaks. Older people and people with osteoporosis are more likely to break a hip. Surgery and physical therapy can help some people with a broken hip regain mobility and independence. To lower your risk of a hip fracture, stay healthy and see your provider for regular checkups.
A hip fracture happens when the upper part of the thighbone (femur) breaks. The injury usually results from a fall or car accident. Hip fractures are more common in older people because bones weaken and become more brittle with age.
Most hip fractures cause severe pain and require surgery immediately. Some people need a total hip replacement after a hip fracture. Physical therapy (PT) can improve the outlook for people with hip fractures.
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Fractures of the hip are common. In the United States, more than 300,000 people fracture a hip every year. Risk factors for a hip fracture include:
The ball-and-socket hip joint includes the upper part of the thighbone (femur) and the curved hip socket (acetabulum) of the hipbone (pelvis). The round top of the femur (the “ball,” or femoral head) fits into the hip socket to form the joint. Muscles, tendons, ligaments and soft tissues support the joint.
Hip fractures can occur in several areas of the upper femur. The most common types of hip fractures are:
Symptoms of a hip fracture typically come on suddenly. But they can appear gradually and worsen with time. Signs of a hip fracture include:
Most hip fractures result from an accident, such as a fall or car crash. Athletes, especially long-distance runners, can fracture a hip with repeated use (stress fracture).
In older people, hip fractures can result from a minor fall or from twisting or pivoting suddenly. People with osteoporosis can break a hip doing everyday activities such as walking or getting out of a chair.
Your healthcare provider will examine the area and ask about any recent accidents or falls. To check for nerve damage (neuropathy), your provider may touch your foot or leg and ask if you feel any sensation.
To diagnose a fracture and check for damage to soft tissues, your provider orders imaging studies. These may include:
Hip fracture treatment depends on your age, overall health and type of injury. Most hip fractures require surgery within a day or two after the injury. But some people aren’t healthy enough for surgery due to their age or other conditions.
Your provider will recommend the most appropriate treatment for you, which may include:
You may not be able to prevent a broken hip. But you can lower your risk of a fracture by:
A hip fracture can be life-changing. Many older people don’t regain full mobility or independence after a hip fracture. Some people need a cane or walker to get around. Other people may need full-time care.
The outlook depends on several factors, including:
A fractured hip is an emergency. Call your provider right away or go to the emergency room if you have signs of a hip fracture.
A note from Cleveland Clinic
A broken hip can be life-changing, especially for older people with other health conditions. Physical therapy can significantly improve outcomes for people with a hip fracture. To prevent a hip fracture, you should stay healthy, get plenty of exercise and visit your provider for regular checkups. If you have osteoporosis, talk to your provider about medications that can slow bone loss and help you avoid a fracture.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 01/21/2021.
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