The holistic and evidence-based approach is calling for functional medicine chiropractors
Chiropractors go beyond assessing and treating symptoms of disease. Seeking to find the source of the problem, or root cause, puts functional medicine chiropractors as one of the four types of medical providers who are considered functional medicine doctors.
- Doctors of Chiropractic (DCs)
- Naturopathic Doctors
- Integrative MDs and DOs
Skilled and trained medical professionals who relieve pain from the spine and other parts of the body using manual manipulation techniques, chiropractors utilize functional medicine, which is defined by The Institute for Functional Medicine1 as “a systems biology-based approach that focuses on identifying and addressing the root cause of disease.”
Chiropractors already have the background and existing mindset that plays to the tune of functional medicine. Chiropractors have extensive training and education in a variety of areas, including biochemistry, nutrition, laboratory testing and clinical skills, which are all highly relevant to functional medicine. In today’s world, chiropractors are some of the most well-rounded health care providers, and most suitable for providing functional medicine services to their patients.
Chiropractic contribution to functional medicine
When looking at the basis of what functional medicine encompasses, it makes sense that incorporating standard chiropractic or musculoskeletal treatment as a part of functional medicine is an added and innovative way of treating disease.
It takes a holistic approach to treating the entire body, and not just specific pain. This is critical as the world is facing more health challenges today than ever before. According to the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, there are “369 diseases and injuries with 87 risk factors in 204 countries and territories.”2 With so many potential illnesses that can plague us, one thing is clear: Prevention of disease must become the goal of both patients and physicians.3
Chiropractors are trained to provide evidence-based and conservative treatment to the body. They understand the relationships between biomechanics, nutrition, health and illness, which are key components to the functional medicine model.
Whether a chiropractor chooses to adopt a functional medicine framework in their practice or just work alongside a functional medicine doctor and provide musculoskeletal support, there is a vast need in the world and marketplace.
Six out of 10 Americans suffer from at least one chronic disease such as diabetes, heart disease or cancer. Many of these conditions are caused by preventable behaviors, yet ultimately require medical attention. These conditions then turn into chronic illness, often a result of inflammation in the body, stress, or lack of exercise, among other root causes. One of the most popular approaches in functional medicine and for chiropractors is identifying and relieving stress as part of a patient-centered approach.
To dive deeper, if a patient reports to a chiropractic clinic with the complaint of chronic back pain, in addition to providing palliative and corrective care to the patient, the chiropractor might also address or refer out to have the patient assessed for other causes of systemic inflammation that may be perpetuating the patient’s chronic back pain.
Functional medicine chiropractors: providing patient-centered care
As evident, functional and chiropractic medicine are individualized, meaning patients have choices and decision-making opportunities that increase their involvement in their health care plan. Moreover, they are both intentionally aware of their patients as human beings and acknowledge that diet, lifestyle, and emotional and social behavior affect health and disease.4
Chronic disease is the new standard among the population, and patients are looking for answers to their health problems. Patients prefer meeting face to face, comprehensive treatment education and appropriate time for consultations — all things that chiropractors can provide in their existing practice and that are often lacking in the conventional model of care.5
As the growing population continues to seek out treatment that differs from the acute care model of symptom management, chiropractors should be on the front lines, ready to help their patients. Integrating a functional medicine model into a current chiropractic practice can be a simple process which makes for a smooth transition and an increase in both patient referrals and practice revenue for functional medicine chiropractors. Taking a more comprehensive history, ordering more comprehensive diagnostic tests such as laboratory markers, and diving deeper into the root causes of patient complaints are all simple strategies to begin providing more to patients and assisting with the root cause model of health care.6
Whether a chiropractor is new to functional medicine or has already adopted a functional medicine model into their practice, there are some great places to garner further education and information on how to implement functional medicine7 into practice and stay up to date with information and research. Some educational institutions and groups that provide this information are:
- The Institute for Functional Medicine (IFM): One of the longest-running programs for students of functional medicine. The IFM offers different levels of certification as well as training modules on various health topics.
- Functional Medicine University (FMU): One of the leaders in online continuing education training for functional medicine. FMU offers a certification course which results in becoming a Certified Functional Medicine Practitioner (CFMP).®
- College of Integrative Medicine (CIM): Dedicated to offering only the highest-quality postgraduate education and resources available for today’s busy integrative health care practitioner. CIM offers a certification course which results in becoming a Certified Integrative Healthcare Practitioner (CIHP).
Examples in clinical practice
One of the major causes of chronic pain points directly to stress. According to the American Psychological Association, “Many people report experiencing physical symptoms (77%) and psychological symptoms (73%) related to stress in the last month.”8
If a patient presents to a chiropractor’s office with the chief complaint of “stress,” searching deeper by asking questions through a functional medicine model can provide some answers. Discussing the patient’s lifestyle and stressful triggers can unravel unknown and previously not disclosed root causes.9
Moreover, the overall chiropractic plans of clinical biomechanics are enhanced by adding nutritional advice, lifestyle counseling and exercise rehabilitation. For instance, chiropractors have long been aware that chronic disease is often a consequence of lifestyle choices. Functional medicine chiropractors can uncover these unhealthy living patterns through detailed and insightful evaluation during the first visit. In other words, identifying causes such as stress. It is essential to mitigate these issues as chronic illnesses are expected to account for more deaths in the coming decade than infectious diseases.
Raise your level of care
Overall, functional medicine is about understanding and achieving integrative care and a complete understanding of human body functions. The resultant level of care is a mixture of patient-centered and science-based approaches to address the causes of chronic diseases.
As the opportunities to offer more comprehensive treatment to patients continue to grow, there is no better time than now for chiropractors to begin offering functional medicine services in their practices as functional medicine chiropractors.
ANTHONY CRIFASE, DC, CNS, DACBN, LDN, is the director of professional relations of DocShop Pro. He is double board-certified in clinical nutrition and maintains an active chiropractic practice in Denver, Co. With experience in multiple different industries and as a seasoned chiropractor who understands the ins and outs of practice management, he is on a mission to help other practitioners maximize their time, revenue and systems. Learn more at docshoppro.com.