Hip Fractures 101

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Anyone, at any age, can break a hip, although the injury is far more prevalent among those who are 65 and older. In fact, 95 percent of hip injuries occur in people who are over 65. Hip fractures are hard to ignore, as they usually cause severe pain in the hip and/or groin area. Oftentimes, sufferers have trouble walking afterward or are unable to walk at all.

What Causes Hip Fractures?
The majority of hip fractures are the result of a traumatic event, such as a fall. But in some older adults, whose bones have been greatly weakened by osteoporosis, a very minor trauma, even walking, could cause them to break a hip without falling, according to the National Institutes of Health. In younger adults, hip fractures commonly stem from severe trauma as the result of a sports injury or car accident.

Risk Factors for Hip Fractures
The following factors may all play a role in increasing a person's risk of developing a hip fracture.

* Age. Older people are more likely to sustain a hip fracture because bone density decreases with age, vision and balance begin to weaken, and the ability to react quickly slows.

* Medical conditions. In addition to osteoporosis, any condition that causes dizziness or balance problems can make an individual more prone to a fall. Similarly, arthritis may make stable, safe movements more difficult.

* Gender. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that 80 percent of hip fractures occur in women. This is largely due to the fact that estrogen levels drop after menopause, contributing to bone deterioration.

* Poor nutrition. A poor diet can lead to a deficiency of the nutrients needed to build stronger bones. Diets high in caffeine, for example, can prevent the absorption of calcium and vitamin D.

* Inactivity. A lack of low-impact weight-bearing exercise, such as walking or jogging, can also increase the risk of hip fractures.

Preventing Hip Fractures
It's especially important to prevent hip fractures because recovery is so difficult. Only 25 percent of hip fracture patients will make a full recovery, according to the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons. In addition, of the approximately 1.6 million people who suffer hip fractures worldwide each year, about 20 to 24 percent die within a year of the event, according to the International Osteoporosis Foundation (IOF). Follow these guidelines to reduce your risk.

* Know your bone density. By knowing your bone density, you can begin to assess your risk for fractures. Ask your doctor about getting a bone density scan, especially if you're over age 65. If your test shows you have thin bones, you will be able to take appropriate preventative steps.

* Eat a proper diet. A diet rich in calcium and vitamin D can help to boost your bone health. Foods such as milk, cheese, dark green vegetables, some seafood, and almonds supplement the calcium needed to build stronger bones. Limiting caffeine and alcohol consumption may also be helpful.

* Exercise. Weight-bearing exercises, such as walking or jogging, can also help to build bone strength. In addition, activities such as Tai Chi or yoga, may help to improve balance.

* Prevent falls. Accidents happen, but there are steps you can take to avoid some common mishaps. To prevent household falls, make sure you have adequate space to move safely around your house, and get rid of any stray cords or rugs. In addition, furnish all walkways, stairs and entrances to your home with proper lighting, and place handles and non-slip mats in your shower to avoid slipping.

Treating Hip Fractures
Most hip fractures require surgery, although the type of surgery varies depends on the severity of the injury. Typical procedures involve inserting metal screws, a partial hip replacement, or total hip replacement. Generally, older patients are more likely to require hip replacement surgery.

When surgery is completed, patients generally find it hard to do ordinary household tasks, and some may require an in-home nurse or a rehabilitation center. However, the more active a patient is after the surgery, the quicker the recovery. As with any surgery, the best way to expedite recovery is to follow the doctor's orders as closely as possible.

Back Pain and Depression: What's the Link?

Feelings of depression are significantly more common in people with chronic back pain. Find out more about how to manage your pain and your emotions.

Chronic pain and depression are two of the most common health problems Americans face. What's more, studies have found that these two conditions are often linked, afflicting the same sufferers.

Close to 6 million American adults report suffering from back pain, and studies have shown that depression is four times greater in people with chronic back pain than in those without. Similarly, a 2004 study published in the journal PAIN showed that the rate of depression is often directly proportional to pain severity.

Why Are Back Pain and Depression Linked?

* In the brain. A normal brain works in a state of equilibrium. When one part of the brain is active, the others slow down. In the case of chronic pain sufferers, the region of the brain mostly associated with emotion never slows down regardless of other brain activity, according to a February 2008 study by Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine. This imbalance can result in the feelings of depression often associated with back pain.
* In the body. When a person experiences constant pain, it sets off a domino effect that results in symptoms related to depression. The same Feinberg School study reported that pain often makes it difficult to sleep, which can lead to fatigue and irritability during the day. In addition, a person with back pain may find it hard keep up with everyday movements ultimately resulting in lack of participation in enjoyable activities.

What Can You Do About Back Pain and Depression?
Coping with pain or depression is an on-going battle. Although your doctor can provide medical treatments, there are a few ways to manage your symptoms day to day.

Document it. Keep track of your physical and/or emotional pain in a journal so that, if you need to, you can accurately communicate your symptoms with a doctor.
Be active. Plan activities to help you gain a feeling of contribution. By completing small tasks, you will realize that you can be of help, despite any pain you may be experiencing.
Get support. Joining an online community may help you become conscious of the fact that you are not alone.
Enjoy life. Make a list of the things you know you can do and try to do one of those things each day. In addition, look for new hobbies, games, or people to associate yourself with.

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