The thighs contain some of the largest muscles in the human body. The thigh muscles allow the lower body to bend, flex, and rotate. They also bear most of your body’s weight and keep the hips and legs assigned, in addition to providing and assisting with enough balance. Thigh muscles can be grouped based on their function and location, such as:
- Hamstrings – The hamstrings allow you to extend your hip to move your leg behind your body, such as when you walk and put one leg behind you. They also let you flex your knee, for instance, when you are squatting.
- Adductors – Adductors allows you to bring the thighs toward each other, which is called adduction. They help you stay balanced, keep the legs and hips in alignment, and allow rotation through the hips and legs.
- Pectineus – The pectineus enables you to flex and rotate the thigh at the hip joint. It also helps stabilize the pelvis.
- Sartorius – This helps you flex and rotate the thigh from the hip joint. You use it when you cross your legs to rest one ankle on the opposite leg. Other examples include sitting cross-legged on the floor or bending and rotating your leg to look at the bottom of your foot.
- Quadriceps – The quadriceps allow you to flex your hip or extend the knee.
The femur (thighbone) is one of the largest and strongest bones in the body extending from the hip joint all the way down to the knee joint. Because it is so strong, it requires a significant force to break it. A femur fracture is a break, crack, or crush injury of the thigh bone.
It is oftentimes referred to as a hip fracture or broken hip when the break is in the upper part of the bone near the hip joint area. Femur fractures that are simple, short cracks in the bone typically do not require surgical treatment. However, fractures that break completely through the bone, or cause the bone to be displaced or crushed, require immediate surgery.
Causes & Symptoms of a Femur Fracture
Femur fractures commonly occur when a high-force blow hits the femur, which is from a fall, trauma, or an injury during high-impact sports. The femur can be fractured in either the head/neck of the bone, the main shaft of the bone, and the lower-end near the knee. All three parts of the femur are susceptible to damage that can lead to a number of types of femur fractures that are classified depending on where the fracture was located, such as the following:
- Oblique fracture – An oblique fracture is a straight-line break running at an angle across the shaft.
- Transverse fracture – This is a straight-line break that runs horizontally across the shaft.
- Comminuted fracture – A break that results in multiple fragments of bone.
- Spiral fracture – A spiral fracture is a circular break extending vertically along the circumference of the shaft. These are usually caused by a twisting rather than intercepting force.
- Compound fracture – This is a break that exposes the bone to the air through penetration of the skin.
- Open fracture – An open fracture is a deep wound extending to the bone. Open fractures involve damage to muscles, ligaments, and tendons, in addition to the bone, and increase the chances of infection and other complications.
Certain symptoms associated with a femur fracture include:
- Pain – Normally, femur fractures are severe and sharp. However, it can also be mild or achy. Most people feel pain in the thigh, outer hip, pelvis, and groin area. Pain may radiate down your buttock to your leg. You may also feel pain in your knee.
- Limited mobility – Most people with a femur fracture cannot stand nor walk. Sometimes, it may even be possible to walk, but it is extremely painful to add weight to the leg.
- Sudden physical changes – You may have a bruise on your thigh. One of your legs can appear shorter than the other. The hip might look like it’s out of position, twisted, or rotated.
Who gets a Femur Fracture?
Fractures of the femur are one of the most common fractures within the population, therefore, risk factors for this type of fracture include:
- Age – Femur fractures are more common in people over the age of 65. With age, bones break down, weaken and become much more brittle. Older patients are more likely to experience problems with movement and balance, which can then lead to a fall.
- Medications – Some medications increase the risk of falls. Drugs that cause drowsiness or a drop in blood pressure can cause you to lose your balance.
- Gender – Women tend to lose bone mass after menopause, therefore, weak bones are more likely to break.
- Lifestyle – Patients who live a sedentary lifestyle are more susceptible to fracturing their femur. Drinking an excessive amount of alcohol may also weaken bones and increase your fracture risk.
- Osteoporosis – This is a degenerative disease that causes bones to become weak, increasing the risk of a fracture.
- Health conditions – such as those who do not get enough vitamin D, calcium, and other nutrients have a higher femur fracture risk. Some health conditions, such as dementia and Parkinson’s disease, can increase the risk of a fall.
- Physical inactivity – Lack of regular weight-bearing exercise, such as walking, can result in weakened bones and muscles, making falls and fractures more likely.
How Does a Femur Fracture Affect You? How Serious is it?
If you have experienced a severe injury that resulted in a femur fracture, chances are you may have possibly ruptured your thighbone which will require a further surgical procedure known as a femur repair.
A femur repair is a surgical procedure that helps repair and restore strength to the area of bone that was broken, as well as surrounding soft tissues that may have been damaged from the injury. This treatment that your surgeon performs will be based on the area of the femur that was broken and your overall health.
Any surgery carries its own types of risks, but a femur repair is usually a safe procedure to treat femur fractures. Here are some complications that can arise during or after a femur repair:
- Persistent femur pain – Some patients tend to continue to have persistent thighbone pain after surgery.
- Nerve or blood vessel damage – During surgery, there is a minimal chance that the nerves, veins, or tissue around your thigh can be damaged. Damaged nerves or blood vessels can cause numbness, pain, or lower blood flow around the thigh.
- Blood clots – Because a femur repair affects the way blood flows around your thigh and hip, it can increase your risk of developing blood clots.
Recommended Treatment & Rehabilitation for a Femur Fracture
During a diagnosis of a femur fracture, a healthcare provider will begin by examining the area and asking about any recent accidents or falls. To check for nerve damage, your provider may touch your foot or leg and ask if you feel any sensation. Your doctor may also order additional imaging tests to get a clearer view of your fractured femur:
- Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan – This is an imaging test that uses a high-powered magnet to create images of bones and soft tissues.
- X-ray – An X-ray is further used to radiate and produce images of your bones.
- Computed tomography (CT) scan – A test that uses a computer and several X-rays to allow the provider to see detailed images of the affected area.
After a successful diagnosis, a physiotherapist will design a specific treatment plan to help restore function and help you return to activities of regular living.
Your therapist will support your complete recovery by helping you reduce pain, improve movement in your leg, hip, and back, strengthen your muscles, and improve your standing balance and ability to walk. Your therapist will include treatments based on your condition and goals which will help you return to your daily activities, such as:
Your physiotherapist will provide manual therapy to gently help you start to regain motion. They may perform gentle exercises that you cannot perform yourself during the midst of a femur fracture.
Your therapist may prescribe the use of a supportive device, such as a walker or crutches, and teach you how to properly use it. Many fractures require patients to avoid putting any weight on the broken leg to allow time for the bone to heal.
Your physiotherapist will design an exercise program to help you regain movement and strength. You will learn and perform your exercises during your physiotherapy sessions and continue to perform them at home.
The ultimate goal of these upcoming exercise examples is to strengthen the thigh muscles to better support the joints, which can help relieve pain. Here are some exercises for you to try, including:
Supine adductor stretch
Lie on your back with both knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Next, grab a stretch strap and place it around the ball of the foot of the leg you want to stretch.
Straighten the knee toward the ceiling, adjusting the angle as needed if your hamstrings are too tight. Then, let the leg fall out toward the side toward the floor as far as possible, with the inner thigh facing up toward the ceiling.
Hold for 30 seconds before repeating 2-3 times a day.
Side-lying hip adduction
Lie on your side with the leg you want to exercise on the bottom. Bend and rotate the top hip and knee so that you can place your foot flat on the ground in front of the knee of the thigh that is still touching the ground.
Keep your hips stacked and knee straight as you tense up the inner thigh as you start to lift your lower leg straight up toward the ceiling.
Hold for 2-3 seconds before repeating this method 2-3 times a day.
Lateral leg raise
Lie on your side with the hip you want to exercise on top. Bend the bottom knee and hip for stability so that you lift the top leg without wobbling.
Keep the upper leg straight and in line with your trunk, then tighten your abs to promote hip stability as you lift the entire leg straight up toward the ceiling.
Lift as high as is comfortable before returning to your starting position. Keep the knee and toes pointing straight forward and hip in neutral as you repeat this exercise 2-3 times a day.
Alternative & Homeopathic Treatment for a Femur Fracture
The following below are some homeopathic treatments to help ease your symptoms and find relief on your own:
- Rest – If movement is painful in the early stages of a femur fracture, rest your legs and stay off them as much as you can until you are able to move without pain.
- Ice – Keep an ice pack on your legs for about 20 minutes every hour over the first 3 days after symptoms begin. Avoid using heat, as it may make swelling worse.
- Compression – Wrap an elastic bandage around your legs or wear compression stockings, which uses pressure to keep swelling down.
- Elevation – Keep your legs raised above the level of your heart for 30 minutes, 3 or 4 times a day, so that gravity can help move fluids out and toward the rest of your body.
- Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) – Anti-inflammatory medications such as ibuprofen or naproxen may help ease swelling and pain.
- Turmeric – Turmeric is known to contain anti-inflammatory properties and can help boost your recovery naturally.