A health care specialty focused on the assessment, quantification, and rehabilitation of the human nervous system, utilizing sensory and cognitive based therapies, to promote neuroplasticity, integrity, and functional optimization. Functional neurology is a specialty that aids in diagnosing and rehabilitating simple and complex neurological conditions without pharmaceuticals or surgery.
What is Functional Neurology and is it different from Chiropractic Neurology?
Functional neurology utilizes a variety of evidence-based procedures, including visual rehabilitation, vestibular rehabilitation, proprioceptive rehabilitation and the in-depth understanding of neuroanatomy and their pathways to increase and enhance human function. Rehabilitation occurs through a process called neuroplasticity.
The process of neuroplasticity allows our brain and nervous system to strengthen and grow new neural pathways. It is dependent on repetitions just like strengthening a muscle. If you want to grow a muscle you need to use it. The same applies for neurons. If you want to grow the brain you need to activate those specific regions you are trying to strengthen.
What’s the difference between Functional Neurology and Chiropractic Neurology?
Functional neurology is oftentimes referred to as chiropractic neurology. The majority of functional neurology practitioners are chiropractors, however many different types of healthcare providers are represented within the functional neurology profession.
Medical doctors, Doctors of Osteopathy, Physical Therapists, Naturopathic Physicians, and many other disciplines in the health field have been trained in this specialty.
What education does a Functional Neurologist receive and how are they different from a Medical Neurologist?
Functional neurologists are trained to assess and intervene in all manner of neurological conditions. Our training consists of postdoctoral education in diagnosis and management of neurological disorders that requires several years to complete. Upon completion of functional neurology training, students become eligible to sit for a written and practical board examinations that certify them as functional neurologists. Certification is provided through two primary organizations, the American Chiropractic Neurology Board, and the American College of Functional Neurology. The ACNB is itself accredited by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies, the same organization that certifies all medical specialty boards.
Medical neurologists are medical doctors that have gone through a traditional medical education. Medical neurologists learn about the chemical and metabolic side of neurological diseases and utilize medication mainly to manage neurological conditions. They can order and interpret diagnostic imaging and can also prescribe specific medications depending on the condition.
What conditions do Functional Neurologists work with and is it right for me?
Functional neurologists will work with most neurological conditions as we are treating the individual and not their diseases. We cannot cure neurological diseases, or change the ultimate outcome for someone with a degenerative condition. Our care is not designed to fix incurable conditions. Rather, our care is designed to improve function in the parts of the nervous system that still work in order to promote better function and a better quality of life for our patients.
When you develop a neurodegenerative disorder such as Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, or multiple sclerosis, some nerve cells are unfortunately lost, and some pathways in the nervous system are irreparably damaged. There is nothing we can currently do conventionally to change that (even if there is ongoing research in labs showing promise). However, when you have such a condition, we can often find ways to influence the remaining working parts of the nervous system to make them work better. We strive to take the pathways that still are healthy and precisely stimulate and exercise them, in order to make them more efficient, increase their endurance, and improve your ability to function in the world.
What do therapy sessions look like for Functional Neurology?
Our therapy starts with various types of stimulus, including electrical modalities, laser and light therapies, auditory and visual inputs, and tactile and proprioceptive therapies. We use these to stimulate the deficient parts of your brain and build endurance in your fragile systems. We then use a series of exercises that activate the deficient parts for precise tasks and in very specific orders. We start with fundamental brain reflexes and functions, and build up to more complicated tasks as your brain’s endurance and efficiency improves. We create exercises that integrate the various regions that are struggling, and train them to work together again. We then create types of exercise that allow us to simulate the contexts in the world where you struggle the most, and help you rebuild your function in real-world contexts.