One of the questions we hear most frequently from new patients is “What is functional neurology? How is it different from regular neurology?”
This is an excellent question! Functional neurology is a newer approach to neurology so it’s understandable that not too many people know about it. Functional neurology is being used by different types of medical professionals, but there is a large group of chiropractors that are championing the cause and are well founded in using non-invasive techniques to treat patients. Also, the treatment methods in Functional neurology are very different from conventional neurology despite both fields dealing with the nervous system.
How Are Functional and Conventional Neurology Different?
First, to be clear: “Neurology” refers to the study and care of the nervous system. This includes the brain, the spinal cord, and the network of nerves that run throughout your body. A properly-functioning nervous system is needed for the body to do anything because it’s what carries information from the brain to various body parts, and back again.
Conventional neurology, as practiced in most hospitals, is largely focused on anatomy and diagnosis. The favored diagnostic tools of conventional neurologists are various sorts of scanners you’ve probably heard of, such as MRI machines and CAT scans. They seek to look at the brain and nervous system and diagnose problems with it, in much the same way that a car mechanic looks at a vehicle’s engine and associated parts.
When it comes to treatment, traditional neurology relies almost entirely on surgery and medication. If the problem can be seen and physically repaired, they manually attempt to fix it – again, much like a mechanic. If not, they hand out pills and hope for the best.
Functional Neurology, as practiced by specially trained doctors, is much different. Functional neurology focuses on understanding the function of the nervous system and how to look for problems in how the brain is actually working. By looking at how various parts of the body behave, a functional neurologist learns about the workings of the brain and can determine which areas need to be rehabilitated.
Treatment avoids surgery and medication whenever possible. Instead, functional neurology relies on neuroplasticity. That is the ability of the nervous system to change and heal. A functional neurologist would seek to inspire the body to heal itself, through targeted exercises, rather than by cutting and stitching.
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