All physicians practice the same type of medicine, right? Not always. Beyond some physicians specializing in treating certain body systems, some physicians practice different styles of medicine. Different styles of medicine refer to how a doctor may approach diagnosing and treating health concerns. At Medical Transformation Center in Louisville, KY we believe that functional medicine may be beneficial for patients who have certain health conditions or concerns.
But what is functional medicine and how does it differ from conventional medicine? And when do you need functional medicine the most? Learn more about this style of medicine before you schedule your first appointment with one of our medical providers today.
What Is Functional Medicine?
To put it simply, functional medicine is an approach that focuses on individual care based on biological systems and symptoms to address the underlying cause of a health concern or condition. In this approach, each symptom is treated as a contributing factor to the overall condition of the individual. With this approach, it’s possible that many conditions are caused by a single underlying condition, which then makes it easier to treat the underlying condition to promote better overall health for the individual.
Because this style of medicine focuses on the root cause of symptoms rather than treating symptoms individually, the treatment options can be more holistic and personalized to each patient’s lifestyle needs. This style of medicine is most appropriate for those who have complex illnesses or for patients who have multiple potential causes for a condition or for patients who have multiple conditions caused by one symptom.
Functional vs Conventional Medicine
You’re probably most familiar with conventional medicine, which is practiced by most doctors. As a philosophy, the approach of conventional medicine examines individual symptoms and makes a diagnosis of observable information, including labs and exams. Conventional medicine can be effective for some people, but it may overlook conditions that are related to each other or share the same symptoms.
The weakness of conventional medicine is that it treats every condition as an individual problem, rather than conditions that may share common factors. For the individual, this can make it difficult to strike a balance in treating endocrine disorders or mental illnesses, particularly when medications are involved. Conventional medicine has a place in healthcare, but for some, it may not be an ideal approach.
The functional approach to medicine typically prefers holistic or naturopathic treatments instead of medications and surgery. With this approach, physicians believe that treating the root cause of your health conditions with simple therapies will be more effective overall for your health. Some of the most common treatments include:
Acupuncture is an ancient Chinese traditional treatment that involves inserting thin needles into different nerve points in the body to stimulate nerves, blood flow, and other body systems. Acupuncture has thousands of years of success behind it for relieving pain and stress, as well as promoting the health of digestive organs and the immune system.
Massage is another form of alternative therapy that focuses on the muscle system and nerve stimulation to reduce stress and help treat conditions like fibromyalgia, high blood pressure, and other muscle or joint injuries. While medicinal massage may be recommended by a functional health physician, it’s also considered a staple of integrative medicine and can be recommended by conventional medicine physicians as well.
When people think about chiropractic care, they tend to think about back and neck pain. But a chiropractor can do much more than realign your spine to reduce pain. With chiropractic care, the focus is the relationship between the bones, muscles, and nerves. By focusing on the health of the spinal column, this form of medicine can promote better overall health.
Chiropractic medicine is done by manual therapy, including using certain devices to manipulate the spine and back muscles. Although many treatments will focus on reducing pain, this type of medicine can also help with headaches, muscle spasms, poor sleep, fibromyalgia, and pain related to sport and work injuries.
Certain exercises also have a place in the functional approach to medicine. Exercise such as tai chi and yoga are extremely beneficial for circulating blood and lowering stress, which can have a great impact on your overall wellness. While yoga is more well-known, it can be harder for older patients to use, especially those who have trouble with balance. Tai chi is low-impact but works for all muscle groups in the body, so it can be a good option for patients of all ages and fitness levels.
Can Functional and Conventional Medicine Be Used Together?
Absolutely. When it comes to medicine, taking an “either-or” approach isn’t a practical option for many people. Although functional medicine focuses on holistic treatments, some conditions will not be able to be treated with functional medicine techniques. This is why many physicians believe in an integrative approach that allows the functional style of medicine to pinpoint the root cause of health concerns, and then use a combination of conventional Western medications and functional treatments to treat the patient.
Combining functional and conventional medicine may be necessary for patients who have some health conditions that may be caused by additional factors. For example, if a patient has health concerns caused by obesity, then they may also have conditions that are caused by dietary factors related to obesity. In this case, the root cause of health concerns is obesity, but the obesity itself may also be caused by a poor diet, which could also contribute to health concerns like diabetes and high blood pressure.
How Does the Functional Approach Work?
With the functional approach to medicine, a physician will need to gather a detailed understanding of several important factors related to the patient’s health. For example, your physician will need information about your family history, your biochemical results, and your lifestyle factors to understand what may be causing your symptoms. For some, a condition may be caused by several factors, while for others, multiple conditions can be related to a single underlying condition.
A good example of how this approach would work is diagnosing depression. Depression is a condition that can have many causes, including low thyroid, nutrient deficiencies, and certain medications. A physician will look at your medical information to understand the cause of your depression symptoms, and then recommend treatments to rebalance your biochemistry with alternative treatments or conventional medications.
Why Does This Approach Matter?
For some, the functional approach to medicine may seem overly complicated or even too simple. But the fact of the matter is that this approach to medicine can be incredibly beneficial to certain patients, particularly those who have chronic health conditions. About half of all American adults will have at least one chronic condition, while about 25% of adult Americans will have two or more chronic conditions.
Treating chronic conditions with conventional medicine may not be able to reverse the cause of the condition or completely alleviate symptoms. Chronic conditions like diabetes, cardiovascular conditions, digestive health conditions, nutrient absorption deficiencies, and pain can all be difficult to treat with conventional practices because conventional medicine focuses on treating the symptoms rather than the cause. The functional approach is more beneficial with chronic conditions because functional health treatments can help reverse the cause of these conditions over time.
Are Functional Health Treatments Covered By Insurance?
Whether or not your insurance will pay for your functional health treatments will depend on your specific plan. Many insurance programs will pay for limited chiropractic and acupuncture treatments, while other health insurance plans may not offer any coverage at all.
Still, if your physician suggests a functional approach for your treatment, then you may be able to meet eligibility requirements in your insurance plan to receive treatment. If you want to know about your healthcare coverage for certain treatments, contact your health insurance program.
Take the Holistic Approach
The functional or holistic approach to medicine looks at the entire patient rather than only the individual symptoms the patient may have. By looking at all factors related to health, including family history, your physician can have a better understanding of what might be causing your health concerns. The functional approach to medicine is most appropriate for those who have chronic conditions, complex health conditions, or multiple symptoms that seem to be related to an underlying health condition. Contact us at the Medical Transformation Center in Louisville, KY to schedule your initial appointment today.