People with osteoporosis are more at risk of bone fractures. An osteoporosis hip fracture can be a serious injury, but people may take steps to reduce their risk.

Osteoporosis is a bone condition that weakens people’s bones until they can easily break.

People with osteoporosis may not have any symptoms until they have a bone break or fracture.

This article discusses how osteoporosis can cause a hip fracture and how to recognize the symptoms of a hip fracture. It also looks at treatment options, diagnosis, and more.

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Osteoporosis can make a person’s bones so fragile that fractures happen with minor falls. Osteoporosis may cause people to fracture the upper part of their thighbone, known as the hip.

Most hip fractures occur in older adults in the home or in community settings. Most of these people have bones weakened by osteoporosis.

Learn more about how osteoporosis causes fractures here.

If a person has a hip fracture, their symptoms often include severe pain, particularly when bearing weight on the leg.

Other symptoms often include:

  • pain in the groin or upper thigh
  • not being able to stand
  • being unable to bear weight on their affected leg
  • not being able to move the upper part of their leg or having difficulty moving it
  • swelling and bruising around their hip and upper leg
  • the affected leg is at a strange angle or appears shorter than the unaffected leg

If a person suspects they have a hip fracture, they should seek immediate medical attention.

People with a hip fracture should immediately seek emergency medical treatment in the hospital or an emergency department. Doctors or emergency medical staff will normally perform an X-ray or a scan after a person arrives at the hospital.

The treatment for a person’s hip fracture depends on the type and location of the fracture. Some kinds of hip fractures can cause a person to lose blood. This means that they may require a blood transfusion.

Most people with a hip fracture need surgery to treat it. They normally need surgery within 48 hours after the hospital admission. Having surgery as soon as possible can help to reduce a person’s risk of complications.

Surgery may involve fixing a person’s broken bones back into place using screws, nails, rods, or plates. It may also involve replacing some or all their damaged hip with an artificial hip joint or part of one.

A person’s doctor will be able to explain what kind of treatment or surgery they recommend and answer any questions they may have.

Learn about what to expect with hip fracture recovery here.

To diagnose a person’s hip fracture, doctors usually:

  • perform a physical exam, checking for:
    • injuries to other parts of their body
    • sensation, movement, and circulation in their lower leg
  • take a full medical history
  • use X-rays or other types of scans to confirm the location and type of the fracture

These tests can also help the doctor to rule out other causes of a person’s hip pain, such as hip dislocation or infection.

Osteoporosis hip fractures can have various complications. After a hip fracture, many people are not able to live on their own and may have a reduced lifespan.

People with osteoporosis may have broken bones that do not heal properly. This can cause persistent pain, which can result in a loss of mobility and independence.

Following a hip fracture, a doctor may refer a person to an occupational therapist and physical therapist. An occupational therapist can help a person to make adaptations around their home and make changes to their daily routine.

A physical therapist can help a person to perform exercises safely and assess how much weight a person can put on their affected leg.

People can help prevent hip fractures by taking steps to strengthen their bones and avoiding falls, such as:

  • getting enough vitamin D and calcium
  • maintaining a moderate weight
  • quitting smoking where applicable
  • limiting alcohol intake
  • doing physical activities that strengthen their legs and improve balance
  • having yearly eye exams
  • performing weight-bearing exercises
  • speaking with their doctor about bone density checks

If a person is at risk of falls, they can reduce this risk around the home by:

  • removing clutter and things they may trip over, such as rugs
  • adding grab bars in and near the bathtub or shower and next to the toilet
  • adding railings to both sides of any stairs
  • making sure their home is well lit

A person may also consider asking their doctor or pharmacist to review any prescription or over-the-counter (OTC) medication to avoid those that make them dizzy or sleepy.

Here are some more frequently asked questions about osteoporosis and hip fractures.

What type of hip fracture does osteoporosis cause?

The most common types of hip fractures are intertrochanteric and femoral neck fractures. A person’s osteoporosis can cause both types of fractures.

Learn about femoral neck osteoporosis here.

How serious is osteoporosis in the hips?

Osteoporosis in the hips can be serious. Hip fractures account for 7 in 100 of all osteoporosis-related fractures each year in the United States. Around half of all older adults who have experienced a hip fracture need help walking afterward.

Osteoporosis can weaken a person’s bones, increasing their risk of a hip fracture. Hip fractures often need emergency medical attention and surgery. Complications after a fracture can also have a serious impact on a person’s quality of life.

However, there are things a person can do to reduce their risk of developing osteoporosis or experiencing a hip fracture. Examples include physical activity, getting enough vitamin D and calcium, and reducing fall risks.

It is best for a person to contact their doctor for advice if they have concerns about the risks of osteoporosis or hip fractures.