Please note: This information was current at the time of publication but now may be out of date.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. 

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Am Fam Physician. 2014;89(12):online

See related article on hip fractures.

What is a hip fracture?

A hip fracture is a break in the top of your upper leg bone near the hip joint, just below the waist. The type of hip fracture depends on which part of the bone breaks. Most hip fractures are caused by a fall in people 65 years or older. People with weak bones, known as osteoporosis (OSS-tee-oh-puh-RO-sis), are more likely to break a hip.

What are the symptoms?

The most common symptom is pain in the hip or groin area. The pain is usually worse when you try to move the hip. There is a lot of pain when you walk. Most people cannot walk with a hip fracture.

How is it found?

An x-ray can show if the hip is broken and which part of the bone is fractured. Sometimes, if the x-ray is normal, a test called an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) is done to be sure there is no broken bone.

How is it treated?

The first step is to control the pain. An orthopedic surgeon will help you decide the next step. The most common treatment is surgery. It may involve putting pins, rods, and plates into the hip joint. Some hip fractures are treated with a hip replacement. The orthopedic surgeon will help decide which surgery is best for you.

What happens next?

You will need to work with a physical therapist at home, in the therapist's office, or in a skilled nursing facility to regain use of your hip. You will practice bending, walking, and climbing stairs.

For most patients, your doctor will recommend a medicine called a bisphosphonate (bis-FOSS-fuh-nate). This is taken by mouth. It can help lower your chance of another hip fracture.

How can hip fractures be prevented?

You can prevent falls by talking to your doctor about a fall-risk assessment. You can learn how to make your home safer, talk about medicines that could be causing the falls, and work on your balance and strength.

Where can I get more information?

AAFP's Patient Education Resource

Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality

American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons

National Rehabilitation Information Center

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