Prevention and Cure: Covering Your Bases When It Comes To Hip Fractures
As we age, many of us experience an increased fear of injury. Frustratingly, this comes with good reason! Many of us will experience a loss of mobility, or stability, in our senior years. In parallel, over time our bones become less dense, making them more vulnerable to breaks. In particular, hip fractures are a common experience and, of course, one we’d all rather avoid. Being forewarned is being forearmed, as they say, so with this in mind, we have collected together some useful tips for understanding and avoiding a hip fracture, as well as what to expect should the worse arise. A hip fracture is undoubtedly a deeply unwelcome injury, but treatment and recovery is something that you, or your loved one, can navigate and get through.
What Exactly Is A Hip Fracture?
When we think of our hips, we may focus first on the pelvis, but this is not where a hip fracture occurs. A hip fracture is defined as a crack or breaks in the femur, or the thigh bone – near the ball joint of the hip. Each year in the UK more than 70,000 people experience hip fractures, and most of these cases involve those over the age of 60. The most common cause of a hip fracture is a fall, which thankfully is something we can take precautions against! Risk factors that may elevate our vulnerability to hip fractures include osteoporosis, menopause, and poor early-life nutrition.
Tips For Preventing A Hip Fracture
To get a greater sense of this foe, we can get our bone density tested, and potentially explore medications that increase bone density, should our doctor feel it is warranted. The next line of defense is making our home as hazard-free as possible and making hip friendly lifestyle choices! A high percentage of hip fractures happen at home, due to the usual accidental mishaps. To minimise this risk, we can install slip-resistant mats and grab bars in the kitchen and bathroom. Removing potential perils such as loose rugs, threshold bars, and electrical cords that cross our path can greatly enhance safety. So too can improving lighting in more precarious areas and rearranging cupboards to reduce the need to overreach.
When it comes to the day-to-day, simple choices such as using a walking aid and choosing appropriate and well-fitted footwear can help to shrink the risk of hip fracture. Getting regular eye tests and being sure to wear visual aids when getting about will also assist. For our stability’s sake, staying active is key. Any gentle load-bearing or coordination-focused exercise can help to keep us nimble on our feet! Of course, checking in with your GP is always wise before starting a new fitness routine. Finally, it is worth knowing that modern hip protectors are far less clunky and cumbersome than those of yesteryear. Contemporary protectors can be slim and lightweight while offering impact absorption that can make all the difference should a fall occur.
Recognising The Signs Of A Hip Fracture
More often than not, a hip fracture will be instantly apparent, presenting as strong and chronic pain in the groin area that makes walking or standing difficult – perhaps even impossible. However, occasionally, a hip fracture might be less obvious. On such occasions, awareness is vital because an untreated hip fracture can be extremely dangerous. Indicators to watch for include an inability to lift the leg, swelling and inflammation in the hip area, the appearance that one leg has become shorter than the other, or that the leg is slightly twisted and turned outward. If any of these signs are spotted, call the emergency services right away. It is always better to be on the safe side!
What To Expect If A Hip Fracture Occurs
For this type of fracture, treatment will almost certainly be surgery. The rare exception may be in the case of those who are too weak for surgery to be performed safely. Under the care of a surgeon, the fractured hip would be either repaired or replaced. If discussing this injury with a doctor, you may hear the term “proximal femoral fracture”, as an alternative to the term “hip fracture”. Medical professionals will typically treat a suspected hip fracture with pain relief medication, before assessing the injury. Should surgery be on the cards, around half of cases will involve repair, using pins, rods, plates, or screws, to reinforce the femur. For the remainder of patients, a full or partial hip replacement may be a better option. These options will be chosen based on the condition of the bone and joint, the type and position of the fracture, and factors such as age and mobility level.
Surgery for a hip fracture is usually very prompt, within 36 hours of arriving at the hospital, and is carried out either under general anaesthetic or a spinal epidural. On average, this type of operation takes around two hours. Post-operation, you or your loved one can expect a course of antibiotics to reduce the risk of infection, and potentially anticoagulants to guard against blood clots. How long a hospital stay is required will depend upon how quickly mobility is gained after the operation. For some, this may be four or five days, while for others a little longer, with rehabilitation support, may be deemed the best course of action.
Recovering From A Hip Fracture
While a common injury – and operative procedure, the recovery after treatment for a hip fracture unavoidably takes time and requires patience. This gradual process of healing and strengthening will involve guidance from both your doctor and a physiotherapist and will likely take eight months to a year. Anticipate some bumps in the road, knowing that not all patients will experience a full return to previous mobility. But, by committing to the rehabilitation process, you will gradually move towards the best possible outcome. Following your treatment program, and getting moving under the guidance of a specialist, will certainly make a huge difference in guaranteeing greater recovery.
After a hip fracture, support and assistance at home are likely to be essential. Dressing and performing normal daily tasks can initially be a struggle, and some discomfort is to be expected. If you or a loved one are facing this recovery process, why not read our article on how to help someone cope following a hip fracture? For many, a professional care provider can give just the peace of mind required after an injury of this nature. This type of care doesn’t need to be a long-term commitment and could come in the form of live-in or daily care. If you would like to explore the types of tailored support that Heritage Independent Living can provide, contact our team today for a no-obligation consultation.