A hip fracture can be a very painful experience, even in the recovery phase, which can last several months. Hip fracture treatment will often involve surgery, though this surgery may be avoided depending on the patient's age and overall health. Elderly people are most at risk for a hip fracture, since even small impacts can fracture bones already weakened by conditions such as osteoporosis, though fractures in the hip can occur in younger people, usually due to very severe impacts. Hip fracture treatment involves surgery as well as post-operative care such as physical therapy and bed rest.
Very minor hip fractures may not require surgery at all. These fractures, known as hairline fractures, are small enough that the bone should be able to heal itself given enough time and rest. The RICE treatment is most often used in this case for hip fracture treatment. RICE stands for rest, ice, compression, and elevation. A doctor may prescribe painkilling medication or even anti-inflammatory medication during the early phases of hip fracture treatment for a hairline fracture, and physical therapy may be necessary after a few days or weeks of rest.
More severe fractures will often require surgery in which an orthosis, or supporting device, is surgically implanted into the bones of the hip. This orthosis is usually a set of screws or pins that ensure the bones heal properly and function normally after a prolonged healing period. In the most severe cases, hip fracture treatment may involve a full hip replacement. This is considered a last resort and is usually only done if the joint is obliterated beyond repair. If the patient is elderly or in poor health, the surgery may not be done at all because the risk factors are too high. At that point, the hip fracture treatment will involve pain management rather than fixing the fractured bone.
A total hip replacement can be very painful, and the recovery period can last up to seven months or more for a full recovery. Complications can prevent full healing, and the elderly and people in ill health are far more at risk for developing complications that can lead to pain, infection, and other conditions that can even be fatal. Surgeries that insert orthoses can also lead to a prolonged and painful recovery period, and while the risk factors for complications are still high, they are less so than with a full joint replacement.