Could You Have a Hip Fracture and Not Know It?

Could You Have a Hip Fracture and Not Know It?

Your thigh bone is one of the strongest in your body, and it’s pretty resilient. However, the upper section includes a ball-shaped knob that forms part of your hip socket, and it’s susceptible to fractures if you take a hard fall or get into a car crash. 

For young people, it takes extreme force to break a hip, but the elderly seem to be more vulnerable, especially if osteoporosis has weakened their bones. 

At Tuscaloosa Orthopedic & Joint Institute in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, Dr. Bryan King and our team specialize in diagnosing and treating all kinds of hip pain, including pain caused by hip fractures. Here’s a closer look at what happens when you break a hip.

My hip hurts — is it broken?

There are many reasons your hip may be hurting, so we start by asking you questions about recent events that may have triggered the pain. If you haven’t been involved in an accident or a fall, your hip probably isn’t broken — but there are exceptions. 

Aside from trauma, your hip pain could come from osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, tendinitis, bursitis, or nerve impingement, such as sciatica. 

If you’ve fallen or experienced some other forceful trauma to the area, you may have sprained the ligaments, strained the muscles, dislocated your joint, torn the cartilage, or fractured your hip. 

Weak bones can fracture even without extreme trauma. Osteoporosis makes your bones more porous and brittle, so even standing or walking can cause a break.

To identify the underlying cause of your hip pain, Dr. King runs a series of diagnostic tests, including X-rays and possibly an MRI.

Symptoms of a fractured hip

Your hip bone is considered the upper portion of your femur (thigh bone), and it can break in any of four main areas:

While hip fractures are most common among older adults, young folks can also suffer a break in a traumatic accident or from repetitive stress, as in military training and long-distance running. 

Typically, the first sign of a hip fracture is extreme pain in the hip, upper thigh, and groin. The pain is intense and prevents movement, such as standing, walking, or moving your upper leg in any direction. 

Asymptomatic hip fractures

In some cases, hip fractures trigger misleading symptoms. You may feel slight pain in your groin, back, knees, thighs, or buttocks and be unable to identify the cause.

If you have an asymptomatic hip fracture, you may be able to bear weight and walk without too much discomfort. This type of fracture may not even show up on an X-ray. In this case, we use an MRI to get more detailed information. An MRI takes images of hard and soft tissues and can detect smaller fractures. 

Treatment for hip fractures

If you’re young and healthy, and your hip fracture is minor, you may be able to recover completely with rest, physical therapy, and medication. In many cases, however, surgical intervention is required.

When your hip breaks, it may stay within the socket, and we may be able to stabilize the bone and joint by using pins and screws. 

If your femoral neck has been displaced, or your fracture limits your everyday activities and doesn’t respond to conservative treatments, you likely need a hip replacement. 

This is a surgical procedure that involves a full replacement of your damaged bones and tissues with artificial substitutes made of metal and ceramic. About 90% of hip replacements last for about 10-15 years. 

If you suspect you’ve broken your hip, it’s important to come see Dr. King right away for a full exam and proper treatment to prevent further damage. Schedule an appointment by calling 205-391-4440. 

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