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Dr. Carlos Gamero (PT, DPT) is a director at the Elite Ortho-Therapy and Sports Medicine clinic in Las Vegas, NV, and well known for his unusual but effective technique called hammer and chisel therapy. He’s a certified strength and conditioning specialist and a keen student of martial arts.
Gamero’s passion for human anatomy and rehabilitation has seen him become one of the most sought-after physical therapists in the country, thanks to his ability to improve patient health and mobility, often without the need for medication or surgery.
One of Gamero’s most notable techniques is ortho-therapy, often referred to as “hammer and chisel” therapy. It is a discipline that has gained traction over the past several years in sporting circles, and could also be beneficial for a wide variety of people suffering from joint pain. While some observers are skeptical of the therapy’s true effectiveness, a growing list of clients going under the hammer and chisel cannot be ignored.
The expert explains what is involved, and just who might see positive results from this type of treatment.
“I first became involved with hammer and chisel therapy, or ortho-therapy, about five years ago, after graduating as a Doctor of Physical Therapy from New York University,” Gamero says. “I always wanted to work with elite athletes, and seek out new and innovate methods of treatment, so I came under the mentorship of Dr. Beau Hightower. I took a chance and asked if he would be willing to sponsor me in an eight-week clinical affiliation, required by my DPT Program. To my astonishment, he agreed, and so I moved out to New Mexico, where I began a four-year apprenticeship, culminating in being certified in full body ortho-therapy.”
On the face of it, hammer and chisel therapy is a sight to behold. The patient is tapped (not struck) with a hammer-like instrument that applies pressure, through the chisel, to bones and joints. An Arthrostim is another handheld device used by some chiropractors to deliver rapid tapping, similar to the movement of a jackhammer. The hammer and chisel is generally used as part of a therapy session that also includes manual manipulation of the joints and other complimentary therapies.
“The musculoskeletal structure of the body is a balance between stability and mobility,” says Gamero. “Due to the activities of training, or in everyday life, the bones can tilt, bend, rotate, and shift out of position. This can cause pain and restriction, so the hammer and chisel allow me to leverage a better point of contact, increasing the effectiveness of my treatment. I manipulate the bones in order to correct these imbalances. I liken it to using the most appropriate tool to achieve the desired result.”
The term ‘High Velocity Amplitude Joint Manipulation’ is often used alongside Hammer and Chisel therapy. “An HVLA is a very quick and short movement performed to ‘unlock’ a stiff joint,” Gamero says. “The definition of an HVLA is a sudden movement or thrust of small amplitude performed at high speed at the end of the joint’s range of motion.”
In a recent interview with M&F, All Elite Wrestling’s Brian Cage said that this treatment had provided more space around his glenohumeral (shoulder joint) and provided a better range of motion.
“That all depends on the initial evaluation and examination of the patient,” says Gamero. “Once the problem is diagnosed, the appropriate treatment plan can be established. Once we correct the structural imbalance with the hammer and chisel, other methods such as self-myofascial release (for example, by using a foam roller), therapeutic exercise, and postural correction should be employed to maintain the changes we achieve during the session. An average therapy session is usually around 1 hour, with the hammer and chisel aspect being only a couple of minutes in length.”
In his practice in Las Vegas, Gamero is visited by all types of patients, including bodybuilders, boxers, and athletes from the worlds of MMA and pro wrestling.
“Due to the violent nature of their training, the level of impact that they sustain day-in and day-out, and the volume of work that they do, this all predisposes them to get into non optimal ‘patterns’ in their musculoskeletal structure,” says Dr. Gamero. “The hammer and chisel help me to correct these patterns.”
Aside from elite athletes, the doctor points out that anyone suffering with joint pain and restricted movement should consider this type of therapy. “The hammer and chisel therapy is definitely not exclusive for athletes,” he says. “The hammer and chisel is a tool that can help in treating anyone with pain and restricted motion.”
What are the benefits and how long do they last?
“Most of the time, there is an immediate improvement in the patient’s range of motion and a decrease in pain once I perform the technique,” Gamero says. “It is like ‘unlocking’ the joint and so patients are really surprised when they feel the results. These benefits can also be maintained by doing the necessary complimentary treatments.”
Gamero is also seeing an influx of patients suffering with joint pain due to sedentary jobs that involve long periods of sitting or driving trucks. “I’m very proud of the multiple patients that I’ve been able to help over the years,” he says. “For example, I had a patient that had been in chronic back pain for over six years. He had been to a variety of chiropractors and physical therapists, had gotten MRIs and nothing was helping. Over a period of a few sessions, we were able to achieve noticeable improvements with his level of pain and range of motion. He was able to regain his quality of life.”