Please note: This information was current at the time of publication but now may be out of date. This handout provides a general overview and may not apply to everyone. For regularly updated information on a variety of health topics, please visit, the AAFP patient education website.

brand logo

Am Fam Physician. 2006;73(12):2201-2202

See related article on hip fracture

What is a hip fracture?

A hip fracture is a break in the bones of your hip (near the top of your leg).

How do I know if I have a hip fracture?

Hip fractures usually are caused by a fall. If you fracture your hip, you will have bad pain in your hip and you won’t be able to walk. Your hip may bruise or swell. Your leg may look shorter than usual, and it may be turned outward.

Any time you fall and are unable to get up or stand, call your doctor right away. Your doctor can check to see if you have a hip fracture. You may need an x-ray to be sure.

Who gets hip fractures?

Older people are more likely to get a hip fracture than younger people. Older people may not see as well and may have weak bones and balance problems.

How is a hip fracture treated?

Most people who have hip fractures will need surgery to make sure the leg heals the way it should.

What can I expect after surgery?

Your doctor can tell you when you should try to stand or walk after surgery. It is important to start moving as soon as possible. At first it may be hard to walk. A physical therapist can help you get stronger. You may need some help from a home nurse or from your family.

How can I prevent another hip fracture?

To help prevent a hip fracture, you should:

  • Exercise regularly.

  • Limit how much alcohol you drink.

  • If you are a smoker, you should quit. Your doctor can help you stop smoking.

  • Eat and drink more products with calcium (for example, milk, cottage cheese, yogurt, sardines, broccoli) to keep your bones strong.

  • Take vitamin D each day. Your doctor can tell you how much vitamin D is safe for you.

  • Use a cane or a walker to help you walk and balance.

  • Get your eyes checked regularly.

  • Make your house safer by moving things out of the way that you may trip over and by making sure there is plenty of light. You also can put rails along stairs and mats in the bathtub to keep you from slipping.

  • Ask your doctor about medicines that can keep your bones strong and about products that can protect your hips if you fall.

Where can I get more information?

Your doctor

National Osteoporosis Foundation

National Center for Injury Prevention and Control

American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons

Continue Reading

More in AFP

More in Pubmed

Copyright © 2006 by the American Academy of Family Physicians.

This content is owned by the AAFP. A person viewing it online may make one printout of the material and may use that printout only for his or her personal, non-commercial reference. This material may not otherwise be downloaded, copied, printed, stored, transmitted or reproduced in any medium, whether now known or later invented, except as authorized in writing by the AAFP.  See permissions for copyright questions and/or permission requests.