Functional neurology is a specialized division in chiropractic that deals with many similar conditions that a medical neurologist may see such as Lou Gehrigs disease or Multiple Sclerosis. It is viewed as a health approach that emphasizes the neuron and the nervous system as being the modulator of the human expression and experience. The major difference between the two professions is the approach used for correcting the neurological condition the patient is suffering from. As functional neurologists we do not use medications or surgeries to address a patient’s symptoms. Instead we use natural methods, therapies and exercises to improve the brains function.
When the brain functions better, it communicates better with the body and the individual is better balanced.
In addition, many neurological disorders are not pathologic, meaning they do not fit into the definition of disease such as Parkinson’s. Subtle symptoms of Parkinson’s can present themselves decades before the person is officially diagnosed. Functional neurologists are taught to identify the signs that many people have when their nervous systems are not functioning at 100% but are not yet pathologic. In other words, they can catch the problem in the beginning stages and prevent the condition from worsening into a disease.
Traditional medicine does not have treatment methods for people that fall into this functional dysfunction model.
It is for this reason that we are often times a person’s last resort. Often times these individuals are told that their diagnostic results from tests such as blood work and MRIs are “normal” because their results don’t fall into the pathologic range, even though there are obvious functional issues. Many patients seek a functional neurologist as a last resort because other doctors have told them that there is nothing wrong with them.
The beauty of functional neurology is that most people can benefit from the techniques we utilize. This stretches from the individual who is pain and symptom free looking to prevent problems all the way to individuals that are severely symptomatic and have been diagnosed with a neurological condition. The following is a short list of some conditions that functional neurologists can address:
- Movement disorders
- Stress management
- Multiple sclerosis
- Cerebral Palsy
- Hard to treat individuals
- People told by other physicians that there is “nothing wrong”
Functional neurology is based on two main principals of the nervous system:
First, there is better communication between brain and body when the left and right hemispheres of the brain are functioning at an adequate level and at a rate relatively equal to one another. This may result or contribute to a variety of symptoms such as those listed above. However, many times when this delicate balance is disturbed there are no major outward symptoms, only underlying “common” problems like GERD, headaches, pain, stiffness, injuries, etc. It is also becoming apparent in recent years that the functional state of the nervous system and the functional immune state of an individual are closely interconnected, and states of hemispheric imbalances can result in immune system dysfunction such as systemic inflammatory or autoimmune states.
Next, individual nerves that make up the brain and nervous system need three things to survive.
- Adequate levels of oxygen
- Adequate levels of food in the form of glucose
- A constant source of stimulation from the environment, which will continually activate the neurons. This is similar to the “use it or lose it” principal.
The investigation and determination of how well neurons are performing these three fundamental activities and how to alter these activities comprise the core clinical application of functional neurology. Mild alterations from optimum performance of the neuron may result in dysfunction of whole-body neurological and visceral disturbances.
If either or both of these principals are disrupted, the health of the individual declines. The delicate balance of the body begins to fall out of place. This usually goes un-noticed at first and may not present itself for months or even years. The functional signs and symptoms present first. If these are not addressed at this stage, the pathologic stage may follow.
Regardless of which stage and individual is in, functional neurologists use techniques that treat the individual as a whole. In other words, the symptoms and condition are not treated; the cause of the problem is treated at a neurological level. When the root cause is treated versus the symptoms, individuals regain the delicate balance. The person is then truly well and balanced as opposed to having an improvement of symptoms only.