What Is the Difference Between a Neurologist and a Functional Neurologist?

The brain is the center of all your thoughts and the coordinating center of your bodily functions. To be philosophically correct, your brain is the boss of your body and of you. Because of its central role, it can affect multiple systems when it malfunctions. Some issues are very physical, like traumatic brain injuries, while others are deeply embedded in other things, like diet. 


It would help if you had a specialist who understands how the brain works to treat issues affecting the brain. The most popular specialists are neurologists. This is thanks to many movies and books featuring these fantastic humans. However, they only specialize in the physical nature of the brain. Alternatively, functional neurologists focus on how the brain and body work together.


So, who is a neurologist? Who is a functional neurologist? How do neurologists and functional neurologists differ? 


Who Is a Neurologist?


A neurologist is the most common of all brain doctors. They are medical doctors who study how the brain works. They focus on the metabolic and chemical processes that affect how the brain functions and responds to stimuli. 


Their education helps them understand the issues that lead to brain issues. They prescribe medications to alter how the brain works to correct the conditions. Sometimes, they will work with neuropsychologists to treat many of these conditions. 


Who Is a Functional Neurologist?


Functional neurologists, unlike traditional neurologists, are not commonly medical brain doctors. Most of them start as chiropractors with extensive knowledge of the function of the nervous system. Their time is spent on diagnosis and holistic treatment of the body. They focus on the root of the symptoms and the impact of lifestyle on the body's function.


To transition to functional neurologists, they must complete additional neurological health coursework. They must learn how neurological disorders work and how to approach their treatment holistically. They are better placed to treat conditions outside the scope of typical causes. This is if they have a relationship with the balance system. 


Type of Conditions and Mode of Treatment




Functional neurologists usually have various subspecialties. However, the general field of disorders they deal with are:


  • Degenerative disorders like dementia

  • Brain injuries

  • Vestibular challenges like dizziness and balance

  • Neurological diseases of unknown origin




Functional neurology rarely ever uses medication to treat the conditions above. Instead, they focus on lifestyle changes, chiropractic manipulation, and other modalities. Every patient requires different modalities, usually determined after a thorough diagnostic process.


What Is the Difference Between the Two?


The two health professionals have different approaches to the conditions they treat. Sometimes, the conditions they treat may be similar, but only rarely. Here are some key differences between the two:




As mentioned earlier, neurologists deal with the physical nature of the brain and the conditions that alter it. These conditions affect the chemical and metabolic structures of the brain and how it functions. They aim to restore the brain's metabolic and chemical balance and structure. They use medications that alter the current state of the brain. 


Functional Neurologists 


These professionals treat conditions affecting the brain. The conditions have a relationship with other health aspects. These fall within their study of the body's function, nervous system, and lifestyle. They understand that some neurological conditions develop from other issues within the body. 


They use a comprehensive approach to treat the root cause and change the brain's workings. They also use alternative strategies to target specific brain areas to restore function. For instance, they can activate the frontal lobe to combat depression.


For more on neurologists and functional neurologists, visit The California Cranial Institute. Our office is in Los Gatos, California. Call (408) 395-8006 to book an appointment today.

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