Symptoms of a Hip Fracture

A hip fracture is a serious condition in which a person's hipbone, or femur, becomes cracked or broken, a condition that normally happens as the result of a sharp fall or blunt injury.

Hip fractures can range from mild, hairline-type fractures to more severe fractures, with significant bone displacement and surrounding soft tissue damage.

Upper Thigh Pain

The most common symptom of a hip fracture is upper thigh pain, sometimes severe, that often radiates into the lower leg or pelvis area. The exact location of a hip fracture, whether near the top of the hip joint or down below the neck of the hip joint, plays a huge role in pain severity, location and progression. However, because of the anatomy of the hip joint, a hip fracture normally produces significant upper leg pain, generally at or near the junction of the upper leg and pelvis area. Acute, sometimes severe, upper thigh pain is the most common symptom and presentation of a hip fracture.

Inability to Bear Weight

Most hip fractures produce enough pain and limitation to disallow normal walking and weight-bearing on the affected leg. Minor hip fractures, fractures that are superficial and localised, often produce mild symptoms that don't significantly impede normal ambulation, but the majority of hip fractures cause significant dysfunction and pain, both of which make weight-bearing activities extremely difficult. A hip fracture results in pieces of the hipbone becoming displaced. This displacement causes severe structural problems and irritation, greatly reducing the stability of the affected leg, making weight-bearing next to impossible.

Leg Swelling

It's common for a hip fracture to produce extensive swelling of the affected leg. As with any other type of bone fracture, significant soft tissue irritation, combined with the body's immune system response to the fractured bone, produces significant swelling. A hip fracture normally produces swelling in the thigh and groin area. Swelling in the lower leg, around the knee joint and/or the ankle area, is less common, but does happen periodically. The degree of leg/thigh swelling that a hip fracture produces is usually related to the degree of the hip fracture; larger, more severe, hip fractures generally produce greater amounts of swelling.

Shortened Leg Length

Severe hip fractures, fractures in which large areas of the hipbone are displaced, many times result in a loss of leg length in the affected leg. A severely fractured hipbone will often cause the bone pieces to become misaligned and to migrate to severely abnormal positions relative to the rest of the hip and leg bone, a situation that can result in a noticeable decrease in leg length. A leg length discrepancy caused by a hip fracture is normally spotted during a hip and/or leg x-ray and a physical exam. Treatment for a hip fracture, whether surgery, casting and immobilisation, involves not only the stabilisation of the fracture, but also the restoration of hip joint movement and leg length.

Loss of Range of Motion

Hip range of motion, which involves both external and internal rotation as well as flexion and extension, is dependent on a healthy, functioning hip joint. Any damage or insult to the hip joint and/or the bones in close proximity to the hip joint can significantly reduce hip joint range of motion. A hip fracture, especially a moderate to severe fracture that involves significant bone displacement, can severely reduce hip joint range of motion. The loss of hip joint range of motion because of a hip fracture is normally because of both the actual structural abnormality of the fractured hipbone, as well as the soft tissue irritation and swelling in the immediate vicinity of the hip fracture. Hip joint range of motion generally improves significantly when the soft tissue irritation and swelling subside.