Over time, increased physical activity can lead to a hip stress fracture. They usually occur in the femoral neck, located at the top of the thigh bone, which connects to the pelvis.

This injury most commonly affects athletes and military personnel after a sudden increase in training or physical activity. Older individuals and those with low bone density are at a greater risk for stress fractures.

Hip stress fractures are relatively rare. They make up just 3–5% of all stress fractures.

Read on to learn more about hip stress fractures, their symptoms, causes, treatment options, and recovery time.

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Stress fractures are injuries that occur due to excessive mechanical stress. A sudden increase in activity, training intensity, or training volume can place excess stress on the bones.

Over time, tiny cracks can form in the bone. This injury is called a stress reaction or response in its early stages. If a person does not rest the injured limb, this can progress to a stress fracture.

These injuries commonly appear in military personnel, runners, and other athletes. Most stress fractures affect the lower leg and foot bones but can also happen to other bones, including the hip.

Stress fractures make up approximately 20% of all sports medicine injuries.

In many cases, it takes a few weeks for symptoms to present.

The most common symptom is gradual hip or groin pain, increasing with activity, jumping, and carrying weights. This pain usually goes away with rest. However, at later stages, people experience pain even while resting.

If the stress fracture becomes a complete fracture, a person may experience “popping” or “cracking” of the hip.

Hip stress fractures can occur in all individuals of all ages. However, they are more common in females.

A few causes of hip stress fractures include:

  • an abrupt increase in the volume and intensity of training
  • low quality or worn-out footwear
  • a rigid or irregular training track
  • insufficient fitness
  • decreased bone mineral density

Physical examination is the first step in the diagnosis of hip stress fractures. Although performing physical tests can help a doctor assess a person’s condition, it is not a definitive method of diagnosing stress fractures.

One example of this type of test is the hop test. This requires a person to hop on one foot to put pressure on the affected limb. Strong pain in the injured regions indicates a positive result.

If a healthcare professional performs a physical exam and suspects a stress fracture, they will likely order further tests. These may include:

  • X-rays: They can provide images of dense bone structures, which might help detect hip fractures. However, they can often produce false-negative results and might require confirmation with additional tests.
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans: These are the most sensitive technique for diagnosing hip stress fractures. They can provide images of bones and soft tissue structures and detect small and incomplete fractures.
  • Computerized tomography (CT) scans: They help to provide a detailed cross-sectional image of the hip. A. doctor may recommend a CT scan if an MRI is unsuitable.

The bone repair process of stress fractures differs from other fractures. Recovery of stress fractures takes place through bone remodeling. During this process, the bone reabsorbs injured cells and replaces them with new bone tissue.

The recovery time for stress fractures can take about 3–4 months. However, this can vary depending on the severity of the fracture, its location, a person’s overall health, and how strictly they stick to their recovery plan.

A healthcare professional will consider various treatment methods when creating a treatment plan. They may include:

  • modification of activities
  • physical therapy
  • use of bracing
  • crutches to take the weight off the injured limb
  • calcium and vitamin D supplementation
  • nutrition changes
  • anti-inflammatory medications to reduce pain

Usually, surgical intervention is dependent upon the location and severity of the fracture. However, healthcare professionals typically only recommend surgical interventions for severe hip stress fractures where people do not respond to all other nonsurgical treatment options.

Both intrinsic and extrinsic factors can lead to the development of hip stress fractures.

Some of the common extrinsic risk factors include:

  • sports involving lots of running and jumping
  • running on hard surfaces
  • inadequate nutritional habits
  • large amounts of physical activity
  • smoking
  • high levels of alcohol consumption

Some of the common intrinsic factors leading to hip stress injury are:

  • being older
  • being female
  • having a low body mass index (BMI)
  • hormonal factors
  • muscle conditions
  • biochemical and anatomical alterations
  • mineral bone density

People should contact a healthcare professional if they are experiencing extreme pain and difficulties in hip movements. Early consultation can help prevent further damage and shorten recovery time.

People with other underlying conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis, should contact a healthcare professional as soon as possible.

Hip stress fractures are injuries that lead to pain and discomfort in the hip or groin region. They usually result from increased physical activity or training of military personnel, athletes, and other people participating in various physical activities.

Minor hip stress fractures can heal with nonsurgical treatments, but severe ones require surgery. People should contact a healthcare professional as early as possible.