Hip Fractures and Osteoporosis: How Are They Related?

Hip Fractures and Osteoporosis: How Are They Related?

by Yenny (SU)

Hip fractures and osteoporosis. These problems are not reserved for people of advanced age. Often, they can begin as early as your fifties. Let’s look at the relationship between broken hips and brittle bones and what you can do to stay healthy, mobile and independent.

What Is a Hip Fracture?

A hip fracture happens when too much pressure is put on the upper leg (thigh) or pelvis. This is often the case when you fall onto the hip or injure yourself in an accident. The actual fracture, or break, typically involves the area just below the head of the femur (thigh bone). Sometimes, the very top of the straight portion of the femur cracks. 

Sadly, hip fractures can be truly life-changing. Over 350,000 people die from hip fracture complications annually in the United States. In most cases, immediate surgery is needed to fix a broken hip. 

Contributing factors are advancing age (over 65), being post-menopausal, weak musculature and poor balance. The professional team at Watauga Orthopaedics diagnoses numerous and varied orthopaedic issues. Our orthopedic doctors frequently diagnose and treat hip fractures.

What Is Osteoporosis?

Osteoporosis is a progressive disease of the bones. Over time, bones thin and weaken, leading to fractures and disability of varying degrees.

How does osteoporosis develop? Probably the biggest reason is lower hormone levels--estrogen in women and testosterone in men. Other contributing factors are smoking, alcohol abuse, a sedentary lifestyle, and some medications that contain steroids. A diet low in calcium thins the bones, as well. Genetics and aging can cause this condition, too. While you cannot halt the aging process, there are ways to mitigate its effects on your bones.

How Are the Two Related?

Many times, osteoporosis goes undetected for years. There may be no real symptoms until the disease advances or until the patient injures themselves and suffers a fractures. One of the most common fracture sites for people with osteoporosis is the hip. 

A person with osteoporosis is more likely to suffer a hip fracture than someone who doesn’t have this disease and experiences the same force on the hip. Additionally, a person with osteoporosis is likely to have a more severe fracture. For example, the bone could shatter into tiny pieces instead of breaking into two pieces.

How Can I Reduce My Risk for Osteoporosis and Hip Fracture?

Today’s bone screening tests are very helpful in determining if you have osteoporosis and to what degree. Orthopaedic doctors, gynecologists and primary care physicians favor the DEXA Scan, a bone mass density test that reveals and grades the strength of bones commonly targeted by osteoporosis and fracture.

By knowing you are at risk, you can take steps to prevent osteoporosis from developing. If it has already developed, you can slow down the progression of it. You can also protect yourself from accidents by being more careful, like refraining from climbing step ladders and wearing comfortable, flat footwear.

Additionally, your orthopaedic doctor can look at other risk factors associated with hip fracture--your age, gender, activity level, and more. Together, you can plan ways to mitigate your risk for injury.

Common interventions include:

●     Taking calcium supplements along with 600 to 800 IU of vitamin D daily (D helps your body absorb calcium).

●     Increasing your intake of protein- and potassium-rich foods.

●     Getting daily exercise, such as walking.

●     Taking fall precautions at home and work. 

Common sense strategies, such as maintaining a healthy weight, keeping a night light on, and avoiding icy sidewalks, reduce your chances of falling and sustaining a hip fracture.

We Are Here to Help

At Watauga Orthopaedics, we offer comprehensive care for a wide range of musculoskeletal conditions, including hip fracture and osteoporosis. We feature on-site diagnostic testing and MRIs, as well as a full range of physical therapy services to make you stronger and help you recover after a fracture.

To learn more about us, please call us for a consultation. We have offices in Johnson City, Kingsport and Bristol, and our 20 orthopaedic physicians offer world class care. 

Take advantage of our walk-in appointments, or call us at (423) 282-9011. You can also request an appointment online.