Height can have a significant impact on how people see us, especially for men. People often want ways to increase their height after they are 21 years old.
It is possible to increase your height after 21, but only if your growth plates are still open. If they are not open anymore, you can try other quick alternatives like heels and shoe lifts. A more extreme solution is leg lengthening surgery.
Increasing Height and Your Growth Plates
Most people tend to have little to no increase in height after 18-20 years old. Some people may have small growth spurts when they are 20-21 years old, but the height will not significantly increase. The main reason why people stop growing at those ages is their growth plates. Epiphyseal plates or growth plates are specialized areas of cartilage near the ends of the long bones.
If your growth plates are still open or active, you can still grow. They are the leading cause of people’s bones continuing to get longer. However, the growth plates usually close or harden towards the end of puberty. Once the growth plates close, there will be little to no more growth.
Women’s growth plates usually close when they are 16 years old. Men’s growth plates can close between 14-19 years old. In some cases, long bones’ growth plates can prematurely close (Shik Shim et al., 2015). Premature growth plate closure can be caused by precocious puberty, an abnormal early puberty.
Some adults may experience slight differences in height daily, which is normal. However, actual bone lengthening is very unlikely to occur in adults. Most adults experience a slight compression in their spinal discs. Small reductions in height usually occur from daily activities throughout the day. The activities affect your spine’s fluid and cartilage.
Some people can lose up to around half an inch of height in a day (Tillmann et al., 2001). However, most of these changes are not permanent. Additionally, the changes in height are often very minimal, so most people will not notice them.
How to Increase Your Height
Shoe lifts are pieces of plastic that you can put into your shoes. You can add as many shoe lift sections as you need (and can fit in your shoe comfortably) to reach your desired height.
Most shoe lift sections are about 2 centimeters, so you can use two sections in each shoe to add nearly 2 inches to your height. However, wearing more than two sections can make it difficult to walk.
Certain shoes are better at hiding shoe lifts than others. For instance, ankle boots can easily hide two shoe lift sections. However, sneakers may not be ideal shoes if you want to wear shoe lifts. Elevator shoes are shoes that already have shoe lifts embedded in them. They tend to be more comfortable to wear than wearing shoes with removable shoe lifts.
It is commonly known that women wear heels to increase their height, but men can also casually add 1 inch of height by wearing heels. While you could technically wear heels taller than that, societal norms often dictate that men should only wear heels 1 inch tall or smaller. Otherwise, it may appear too “feminine” or too obvious.
Leg lengthening is a more extreme yet effective option to add up to around 4 inches to your height. It uses the body’s ability to regenerate new bone along with the nerves, blood vessels, ligaments, and soft tissues surrounding and support the bone.
Some patients were able to get as much as 8 inches taller from leg lengthening surgery. However, it would be best to consult a doctor about how much taller you can safely reach with leg-lengthening surgery since each person is different.
To start the process, a surgeon will perform an osteotomy. The surgeon will cut the bone, typically the lower or upper leg, that needs to be lengthened. The surgeon will then use an internal and/or external fixation frame or device to stabilize it.
The process then continues with two phases of recovery. The distraction phase is the first phase. The newly cut bone slowly gets pulled apart to promote new bone growth or distraction osteogenesis. The new bone tissue will continue to grow by spreading or distracting the gap around four times a day. Each adjustment usually spreads it by ¼ millimeter for about 1 millimeter a day.
The body will create more tissue in the gap as the space between the bone’s end spreads until you get the desired bone length. A surgeon might do other procedures if any deformities were present, like bone misalignment from a birth defect.
Doctors will encourage patients to walk using crutches, even early on in this phase of recovery. It will help the patient remain mobile and avoid potential issues. The bone will consolidate and heal during the second phase. The patient will slowly add weight to their affected limb and start walking without aids like crutches.
An internal lengthening nail or external fixator can help accomplish the slow bone lengthening. Children can fully recover from bone lengthening surgery in about three months, whereas adults may take twice as long.
Doctors usually tell their patients to eat a very healthy diet and take calcium supplements as they heal. They also need physical therapy to maintain their strength and keep their joints flexible. Some people think that the new bone is weaker, but that is not true. Bones can break and heal, so leg lengthening surgery uses that process to achieve the desired results.
The new bones will not be weaker, provided that there were no complications as the patient healed.
Will Exercise and Stretching Make You Taller?
A popular myth is that stretching and specific exercises like climbing, hanging, etc., can make you taller. However, there is not enough substantial evidence to back up those claims.
As stated earlier, your spine’s cartilage discs can slightly compress and decompress from daily activities throughout the day. Some stretches and exercises could help decompress your spine, which slightly and temporarily increases your height.
However, it is essential to note that you may not notice a significant change in your height. Additionally, it is not an actual increase in height. Your height can quickly decrease again after decompressing your spine and vice versa.
Does Weightlifting Make You Shorter?
Another popular myth is that lifting weights can affect your height. Many people believe that lifting weights can put too much weight on your bones and keep you from growing. However, many studies prove that it is not true.
Many researchers agree that weight lifting can be beneficial for people of all ages. One study shows that given a person lifts weights safely and under proper supervision, there was no negative impact on a person’s growth (Malina et al., 2006).
Weight lifting can make the spine compress. As stated earlier, that can make a person’s temporarily shorter by a minimal amount. However, it can easily go away by doing other activities that decompress your spine.