Most of us hit our growth spurt during our pre-teen and teen years while going through puberty. This usually happens between the ages of 10 and 14 for girls, and until around 16 for boys, with good nutrition, enough sleep, and regular exercise supporting normal growth. However, there are some of us who are vertically challenged and rely on high heels, lifts, and pinstripes to look taller.

In the U.S., the average height for adults ages 20 years and over for men is 5 feet 9 inches, while for women it's 5 feet 4 inches. Yet, some Americans fall "short" on the height spectrum due to a variety of reasons ranging from nutrition to genetics. The height gap that exists between some of us could be remedied, with a (painful) medical procedure.

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In DNews video, "This Unorthodox Procedure Makes Short People A Foot Taller," host Jules Suzdaltsev explains that a medical procedure called "distraction osteogenesis" can actually lengthen bones by a few inches. The surgery was originally developed to treat those with uneven leg lengths or dwarfism. This is essentially done by breaking the bone, then separating or stretching it for the bone to heal in a longer position. Today, it is mostly used to treat disorders of the face, where the jaw or chin or skull may not be the right size, or growing in the right direction.

In the early 2000s, this surgery grew in popularity in China, and is still being done around the world as a treatment for shortness. There are several stages to the heightening procedure, including, an “osteotomy" phase, which is the technical term for when they break your legs, is the first stage of the procedure. The leg bone, usually the tibia, is either fully separated, or just cut into what is a essentially a fracture. This is followed by the latency phase, where you're chilling with a broken leg for a few days as your body starts to heal.

The "distraction phase" introduces a separating device, often a Ilizarov apparatus. This surrounds the leg and bolts into the bone, allowing not only stabilization, but separation. Each day, the device separates the two parts of the tibia by about one milliliter. While the device separates the bone, a callus forms at the site of the break, and as the bone is spread farther and farther apart, the callus is resorbed and replaced with a collagen structure.

Collagen is a protein that forms the connective tissues in our bodies. Blood vessels will begin to grow around this collagen, and special cells called osteoblasts move in to create the actual bone material. At this stage, the bone material has not mineralized, or become fully hard.

Lastly, the "consolidation" phase refers to the mineralization of the bone material, where the desired length is reached, and often tops out as just a few inches. This takes about a month for each centimeter in length. Now, the slightly taller patient just has to undergo several months of physical therapy to learn how to walk again. Undoubtedly, the whole process is very painful.

The surgery brings an array of complications, including axis deviation, or leg alignment, hardening of joints, and psychological problems, according to a 2014 study.

The Hospital for Special Surgery in the U.S. claims to have added up to a full foot in height to those with dwarfism, although most people are able to achieve a height boost of only a few inches.

Bottom line: You can grow taller, but if it's not a medical necessity, you might want to reach for something else.

See Also:

4 Tips To Look Taller

Why Taller People Can Die Earlier Than Most