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9/26 8:42:27

QUESTION: I've attached a picture from a kid site that teaches about the human skeleton, however, it is a close representation of my current skeletal structure.

Tell me, do you know of any way to grow one separate side of the skeleton that doesn't require surgery. If not, then could you tell me if the following method work:
Taking part in numerous weight bearing activities and then hanging weights on the limbs.
I did this to increase my wingspan for a sport from 72 3/4- 75 inches in a matter of months, but now I'm more aware of the imbalance of my structure.

Sorry for the length and thanks for reading.

ANSWER: Dear Caleb,

I am unsure of any way of causing site specific bone growth other than by performing a sectioning of a bone and traction across cut line.

I am also somewhat confused by what you were trying to show me in the picture. Please clarify it for me.

As for the method that you used to increase your wingspan... it is possible that the increase simply occurred due to natural growth. How old were you when you did this?

If you have a wingspan of more than 6 feet, I assume that you are about or over six feet tall. I can't imagine any reason as to why somebody would try and induce abnormal growth patterns when there is obviously no growth abnormalities present.

If you are serious about looking for a method to induce bone growth, your best options would be with an orthopedic medical doctor.

I hope that this helps you somewhat.

Keith Biggs, DC

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Sorry for the confusion & trouble...this is long too.

The picture is just an example of the slight size difference. For what ever reason, my right side has not grown to my lefts extent. Size & length differences in arms & legs are 1"-1 1/2" each.

I am 19 & I tested my method of increasing my wingspan between August & late October in 2010. For two years I've been 5'11-6'0 and I now have a wingspan of 75" but I have wide shoulders so it does not come down that far. My reason for this was to get get a longer reach for boxing & other athletics & if it worked for my arms, then I would've used it for my legs.

My theory was if martial artists could change their bone structures(Wolfe's Law) by hitting the bones repeatedly/progressively, why can't I make changes & instead of making them stronger...why not make them longer(to me it also seemed faintly similar to the idea behind the Ilizarov method).

What I did specifically was hit a heavy bag with different parts of my arms to create micro damage (not micro fractures) and follow it with periods of holding weights at my sides a few times a week.

Apparently, something happened...because with no weight gains...I received stretch marks around my shoulder & elbow joints & my wingspan went from 72 3/4"-74 1/2" during that period & its now 75".

I've been asking around, one doctor answered & mentioned either shoe lifts or bone lengthening surgery. I can't do the surgery. So, I'm looking for all the answers I can find...& opinions of my method.


Dear Caleb,

Placing of lifts in one shoe does nothing to increase the growth on one side, although it does help in supporting a distortion that is already present.  It is true that stress applied to a weight bearing bone results in additional bone density growth. In theory I could see applying a distraction force over time could result in elongation of long bones, especially if the subject is still growing and has active growth plates. One problem, in my mind, is that simply distracting of the arms through the suspension of heavy weights in the hands applies a traction force across the entire shoulder, elbow, wrist, hand, finger region... including not only the long bones, but also the joints. Joints are held together by soft tissues (ligaments, muscles, joint capsules, etc) and therefor more subject to distortion/stretching forces than bones. In surgical procedures to lengthen long bones, a fracture/cut is made in the long bone, and a special traction appliance that is connected to the bone across the fracture line applies traction to the fractured bone segment... not the joints.  You might have gained arm span, but at the cost of joint stability or with true bone growth? Unfortunately, neither you nor I have the answer to that question.

I am also a little bit concerned because perceived postural distortions are difficult to measure and determine... meaning that an apparent short leg could be many things. It could be a collapsed arch on one side compared to the other side. It could be an issue with stance/posture. It could be due to a subluxation or misalignment of the pelvis. It could be a distortion of the ankle, knee, or hip joint. It could be caused by stunted growth from past trauma or disease. It could be a short femur. It could be a shortened tibia and/or fibula. It could be the result of hip dysplasia from birth, or many other things.

A short leg on one side (due to any or all of the above reasons) compared to the other can result in a curvature of the spine or scoliosis, and this could cause a distortion of the mid back to upper mid back. Such a distortion could cause an apparent difference in lengths of the arms, even though the bone lengths are the same.

The good news is that none of us are perfectly symmetrical.  We all have distortions and differences from one side to the other. Only in severe cases does this cause any type of long term problem, such a degenerative arthritic changes in the bone due to abnormal stresses over long periods of time (Wolfe's Law).

Stretch marks in the skin simply signify stress on the skin. Lets say, for example, that during your attempts to increase arm length what you actually did was weaken ligaments by opening up joint spaces, (ligaments and muscles, being soft tissues, would be the first and easiest to distort) resulting in a net gain of joint space but with a resulting instability of the joint. (it is interesting that you note the stretch marks occurring over JOINTS, and not the mid sections of the long bones...) I do not believe that joint instability would be your ultimate goal because this would lead to injury.

What you need, if you are serious about boxing and the advantages that you feel that you will obtain through body part modification, is to find yourself with a sports orthopedic physician. He/she will be able to guide you through the benefits and pitfalls of attempting body modifications, surgically or non-surgical.  

Good luck. I hope that this helps you to find some answers to some very difficult questions.

Keith Biggs, DC

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