Signs & symptoms of hip stress fractures

Written by carol ochs
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Signs & symptoms of hip stress fractures
Athletes are common victims of stress fractures. (hip xray image by JASON WINTER from Fotolia.com)

Stress fractures are tiny, hairline cracks that can occur in any bone in the body but are most likely to appear in the legs because of the weight they bear. The fractures are overuse injuries that develop when bones don't have a chance to recover from the stress of events like distance running. Athletes are the most common victims of stress fractures. When a stress fracture appears in the hip, it usually involves a thin part of the thigh bone, or femur, known as the femoral neck.

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Signs

Orthopod reports that hip stress fractures were once most commonly found among members of the military who trained by marching and running day after day. Today, athletes involved in strenuous sports such as long distance running are most likely to suffer from hip stress fractures. Two types of stress fractures exist, according to Orthodpod. Bones can sustain "fatigue" fractures when extreme force is applied or "insufficiency" fractures when the bone itself is unhealthy, such as in cases of osteoporosis. If you develop pain in the groin or hip area after starting a new, strenuous or very repetitive activity, this could be a sign a stress fracture has developed. Bone density scans can detect if you suffer from osteoporosis and may be at greater risk of developing a fracture.

Symptoms

The Cleveland Clinic says you might suspect a stress fracture if you suffer pain that is highly localised and related to the activity causing stress on the hip. Pain is not generalised, like it might be from common muscle aches. Orthopod says most people with hip stress fractures feel pain in the front of the groin while they move or stand. The pain can be severe enough that patients can no longer do more strenuous activities, such as running or climbing stairs. Resting can often make the pain go away.

Diagnosis

There are a number of ways to diagnose a stress fracture. First, your doctor will likely ask a lot of questions about the nature of the pain, your medical history and your exercise routine to zero in on the source of the pain. X-rays may come next. Stress fractures may not show up on an X-ray, but the X-ray can be used to rule out other conditions. To get a definitive diagnosis, your doctor may suggest getting a bone scan or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan.

Treatment

Treatment plans are based on the type of fracture you sustain. Usually, stress fractures can be treated by staying off the affected leg. Crutches may be prescribed, along with rest for four to six weeks. Medication and hot and cold packs can be used to control the pain. In some cases, surgery may be necessary.

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