Is functional neurology a replacement for traditional care?
Absolutely not. Our care is not intended to be an alternative to treatment by a medical neurologist. Our services are complementary to medical care. We work closely with numerous medical providers, including neurologists, psychiatrists, internists and primary care providers.
Does functional neurology cure neurological diseases?
No. We cannot cure neurological diseases, or change the ultimate outcome for someone with a degenerative condition. We treat people, not diseases. Our care is not designed to fix incurable conditions. Rather, our care is designed to improve function in parts of the nervous system that still work in order to promote the best possible 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 do to change that. 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 are still 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 is a functional neurology examination?
Our work starts with a detailed health history, followed by a very comprehensive neurological examination. We then perform a series of advanced diagnostics that record and evaluate eye movements, inner ear function, and balance. We utilize the same gold standard technologies found in hospitals, neurology and neurological clinics, and brain injury treatment centers throughout the world. We use these technologies to see what parts of your nervous system do not work, but more importantly, which ones do. This allows us to determine if there is a realistic chance of improving function through treatment. If so, we prescribe a series of unique exercises and various other forms of stimulus designed to precisely stimulate the specific parts of the nervous system that we may be able to help, and that can hopefully result in a positive change in function.
The types of exercises and stimulus we employ are unique to each patient and generally change several times as we progress through a course of care. These exercises are generally performed for a few minutes several times per day over a period of time ranging from weeks to months. Our frequency of treatment depends on the needs of the patient. In most cases, we see people three times per week when we start working with them and decrease this as they improve. In more challenging cases, we may see them more frequently. When we see people with severe brain injuries or advanced degenerative diseases, often our best hope to make a change involves clustering treatments together into intensive protocols. In such cases, we may treat several times per day over a week or two. We also generally like to work this way for patients who travel longer distances to see us. We usually find intensive protocols are our best opportunity to make the changes we seek.
How soon can I expect to see improvement?
People often experience some degree of immediate improvement in their symptoms after one treatment. In some cases, these changes are immediately felt, and can be quite dramatic. It is not uncommon for us to be able to make symptoms improve significantly in real time. Usually these immediate improvements only last for a short period of time, however with more frequent stimulus, we can usually create lasting change.
In most of our cases, the changes are smaller but build up over time. Our courses of care usually start by seeing patients 3 times per week followed by gradually decreasing the rate as they improve. Typically, treatment lasts 3-4 months and then we repeat all of the diagnostic tests along the way to evaluate progress and change the exercises and stimulus as needed. When we reach our maximum level of improvement, our patients may need to continue to perform some of their home exercises to maintain the gains they have made.
In some cases, despite our best efforts, we cannot make a change. Unfortunately, we can not guarantee that we can get you better, but we can guarantee that we will do everything we can to help.
What are the rehabilitation exercises like?
Brain rehabilitation exercises differ for each person depending on his or her unique needs. Treatments may include chiropractic adjustments, neuromuscular re-education exercises, or stimulation of the auditory, visual, vestibular (balance), or other sensory systems. In some cases, adding neurofeedback to the treatment is a great help. [See our page on Neurofeedback]
Examples of common brain rehab exercises include having someone rotate you in an office chair while maintaining focal fixation, specific balance exercises, eye exercises using large and small images, wearing tinted lenses, the use of a tuning fork against a certain part of the body, or even working in an app that can be downloaded into your iPhone or iPad. These exercises may seem unusual, however they deliver very specific input to select areas of the brain. Brain disorders typically stem from areas of the brain that are underactive or overactive. The exercises help correct these extremes to return function to normal. This in turn may alleviate the symptoms of the condition.