A hip fracture is a serious injury to the hips with potential life-threatening complications. The risk of hip fracture increases with age.

Bones tend to weaken with age (osteoporosis) and therefore, older people have a higher risk of a hip fracture injury. Common causes of hip fracture in older people are tripping and falling to the ground sometimes due to poor vision, balance problems or multiple medications.

The general treatment for hip fracture is surgical repair or hip replacement, followed by prolonged physical therapy. Maintaining bone density and avoiding falls may help prevent hip fracture.



Symptoms of a hip fracture include:


  • Inability to move immediately after a fall
  • Severe pain in the hip or groin
  • Stiffness, bruising and swelling around the affected area
  • Inability to put weight on the leg where the injured hip is
  • Turning outward of the leg
  • Shorter leg on the side of the injured hip



Hip fractures caused by a severe impact, such as in a car accident, can occur in people of all age. In older adults, hip fractures usually result from falls. In people with very weak bones, hip fractures may occur simply by standing on the leg or twisting it.


Risk factors

The most common risk factor for hip fractures is older age. The risk of hip fractures increases along with age. This may be due to:


  • Decreased bone density and muscle mass
  • Vision problems and balance problems that lead to falls


Other risk factors for hip fracture include:


  • Gender: More than half of hip fracture cases are in women. The drop in estrogen levels after menopause speeds up bone loss.
  • Chronic medical conditions: Endocrine disorders can lead to fragile bones while intestinal disorders can reduce the absorption of vitamin D and calcium and lead to weakened bones. Cognitive impairment increases the risk of falling.
  • Medications: Certain medications such as cortisone can weaken the bones after prolonged use. Other medications or combinations of medications may cause dizziness and increase the risk of falling.
  • Malnutrition: Lack of calcium and vitamin D during childhood lowers the peak bone mass and increases the risk of fracture in the future. Serious eating disorders can deprive the body of essential nutrients necessary for bone building.
  • Physical inactivity: Weight-bearing exercises, such as walking, help strengthen bones and muscles and reduce the risk of falls and fractures. Without regular weight-bearing exercises the bone density may be low.
  • Tobacco and alcohol use: These may interfere with the normal process of bone building and maintenance, leading to bone loss.



A hip fracture can jeopardize future independence or even shorten one’s life span. Approximately half the people who suffer a hip fracture lose the ability to live independently in the future.

A hip fracture that requires prolonged immobilization can lead to the following complications:


  • Blood clots in the legs or lungs
  • Bedsores
  • Pneumonia
  • Urinary tract infection
  • Further loss of muscle mass


Furthermore, a hip fracture increases the risk of weakened bones and future falls, which may increase the risk of another hip fracture.



The following tips can help prevent falls and maintain healthy bone:


  • Sufficient calcium and vitamin D
  • Regular exercise to strengthen bones and improve balance
  • Avoid smoking or excessive drinking
  • Remove home hazards
  • Stand up slowly
  • Regular eye exams
  • If unstable, walk with cane or walker
  • Check medications for side effects