From smoothing-out cellulite to lasering off our blemishes, the idea of using medical procedures in the quest for us to achieve a certain look is nothing new, but the ever-increasing extremes to which we are willing to go seems to be an issue for concern.

With limb lengthening on the rise, M&F takes a look at the procedure, the pitfalls, and why the quest for perfection needs some careful thought.

What is Limb Lengthening?

Limb lengthening is a surgical procedure used to increase the length of a bone in the body. It is typically performed to correct discrepancies in length caused by conditions such as birth defects, injuries, or growth abnormalities. The procedure involves surgically breaking the bone, a task known as osteotomy, and then gradually pulling apart the bones’ segments. This in turn encourages new bone to form in the gap, a process known as distraction osteogenesis. As it heels, the newly formed bone enables the limb to become longer over time, adding inches to the patients’ height.

A course of physical therapy and rehabilitation to regain strength, mobility, and function in the lengthened limb is then required as part of the recovery process. For many, limb lengthening surgery can significantly improve the quality of life for individuals with discrepancies, helping to correct alignment issues and restore symmetry. But it is also becoming more popular among people who are otherwise healthy but feel insecure about their height and see the procedure as a cosmetic solution.


Why are Healthy People Having Limb Lengthening Operations?

In today’s world where television and social media gives us plenty to feel insecure about, fixing our height is becoming just as achievable as having fat removed via liposuction or a six-pack added by having an implant installed. Still, the process of having legs lengthened is a much more serious operation, although it can boost tallness by anywhere from one to five inches. For that uptick in tallness, a patient can expect to pay upwards of $75,000.

Back in 2020, a report for the BBC said; “At leading centers in the U.S., Germany and South Korea the procedure is carried out between 100 and 200 times a year. Others—including in Spain, India, Turkey and Italy—perform between 20 and 40 operations a year. In the UK the figure is slightly lower—about 15 times a year. Almost every clinic the BBC spoke to noted an increase year-on-year.”

Given the rise of interest around other cosmetic surgeries, those figure’s will have undoubtedly increased today. While the average American man stands at around 5’9”, the constant deluge of images depicting towering superheroes and gigantic movie characters as aspirational figures is driving a ton of insecurity. Those who opt to have the surgery talk about not feeling worthy because of their height. And while the process is painful, those who resent the height that they were dealt at birth are willing to put up with the suffering in order to feel like they fit in.

In that same BBC report, “Barny” said, “It’s like every nerve in your legs are being stretched … There are times when you can’t escape anywhere in your head from the pain. It is excruciating.” Most patients are aware of how difficult the procedure is, but feel that the alternative scenario of living with a height that they resent is far worse.

Of course, the upward trend in men altering their appearance through surgery is not new. Back in 2018, a story that appeared in Wired called this phenomenon; “The Brotox Boom.” But the “lengths” that men will go to in order to make these changes is certainly becoming more extreme. For some, the procedure has changed their life for the better. One man talked to BuzzFeed following his procedure, and while he didn’t want to give his name, he did share the experience.  “There’ll be days where I’ll see a meme that bothers me. Then I’ll remember I had the surgery done,” he explained. “It allows me to not spiral out of control and lose hours of my day anymore.”

Others have spoken of feeling more visible now that they are taller, claiming that an extra couple of inches on their height seems to command them more respect. Whether that is the reality of the situation, or whether these are actually mental issues of their own making is debateable or should perhaps be studied on a case-by-case basis. Body dysmorphia is a condition that makes people perceive a defect or flaw in their appearance that can’t be seen by others, and this is another condition that is on the rise amongst men.

Considerations Before Undergoing a Limb Lengthening Procedure

While some people may think that their height, or lack of height, is being negatively perceived by others, there’s a strong chance that self-confidence issues are to blame. Where this is the case, psychological support may be a safer and less expensive option than limb lengthening. In fact, many surgeons refuse to carry out these procedures for cosmetic reasons.

“What’s slightly sad is it’s almost as if they’re having an operation because of the rest of society,” said Hamish Simpson, a surgeon and professor of orthopedics and trauma at the University of Edinburgh, in an interview with Business Insider. Other surgeons worry that saying no to limb lengthening operations will only drive the procedure into the black market where it will be unregulated and far less safe.

Whatever the case for limb lengthening may be, if it is a procedure that appeals to you, always seek professional help and advice before making any life altering decisions.