Functional Neurology Controversy: Needs Research

How could functional neurology massage become well-accepted when its parent field is controversial?

Our 2012 Functional Neurology for Bodyworkers class was taught by a Board-Certified Chiropractic Functional Neurologist (CFN), Dr. Paul Thomas, (American Functional Neurology Society), graduate of the Carrick Institute. Like other CFNs, Dr. Thomas trained in a rigorous three year graduate program after completing his chiropractic studies.

CFNs often have 3 to 6 month wait lists. Their patients may rave about the benefits they receive, but there is still controversy in this field. Functional neurology is not widely recognized–certainly not as a massage therapy specialty, and sometimes not even as a chiropractic specialty.

brain showing lobes, cerebellum, brain stemCarrick and Crosby: Functional Neurology High Style

The founder of Chiropractic Functional Neurology, Dr. Frederick (“Ted”) Carrick, treats hard-to-treat cases where there is often little hope offered: sports head injuries, especially vestibular concussions; traumatic brain injury; ADHD; brain imbalances that show as emotional issues or depression; and autism. He uses sophisticated technology as well as some of the basic neuro assessment techniques we learned in the Functional Neurology for Bodyworkers class.

Dr. Ted Carrick gained notoriety for successfully treating a very popular Canadian hockey player, Sidney Crosby. After a double concussion in Jan, 2011, Crosby’s medical doctors had given him the best rehabilitation medical science could offer. It wasn’t enough for him to return to playing hockey 8 months later. So he started working with Dr. Carrick. When he returned to the rough game and suffered concussion symptoms again, Dr. Carrick’s treatment allowed him to resume playing. And he has continued. Below is a sampling of links: A Nightline news show on Dr. Carrick’s treatment of Crosby, an ABC news show about Dr. Carrick, and a Huffington Post article about how Cosby’s experience may affect sports concussion treatment.

Carrick and graduates of his program have successfully treated other brain injured athletes. They often use sophisticated devices (see the gyro-spin chair here) that stimulate the brain to rewire itself in novel ways. Crosby says of Carrick’s unconventional approach: “”When someone came along and invented the airplane, people must have thought they were out of their mind. Who thinks he can fly? … At the end of the day, as long as the person getting the care is comfortable, I think that’s what’s important.” (D Epstein, Getting Inside the Head of Sid Crosby)

Dr. Robert Melillo–Disconnected Kids and Functional Neurologyyay-2808173

Graduates of Dr. Carrick’s program have not only made sports enthusiasts happy. They have also uplifted the lives of thousands of parents of children with ADD and learning challenges. One of them, Dr. Robert Melillo, has started a series of Brain Balance centers, and written several books.

Parents’ reviews do not constitute laboratory research, but they could be a weather vane to show which way the wind is blowing. They are overwhelmingly positive on Amazon for Melillo’s Disconnected Kids and Reconnected Kids. Melillo has also written a book that explains the functional neurology behind his work: Neurobehavioral Disorders of Childhood. It has 73 pages of references!

Unfortunately, cutting edge health treatment is often viewed as “not science” until it matures. Researchers must then find a plausible mechanism to explains its benefits. Recently, Carrick’s advances in treating vestibular disorders has reached that threshold. It is now accepted as scientifically plausible. It has even demonstrated substantial benefit when compared to placebo. I believe his other treatments may follow. However, it takes dedication, research money and time.

Carrick is a outstanding clinician, not a research scientist

Although Dr. Carrick has conducted research, he is not primarily a research scientist or writer. It is hard to excel at both. That is because both take considerable time to do well. Dr. Carrick excels as a clinician.

Many of Carrick’s patients have traveled a long and discouraging road before they find him. In science, that proves nothing. The clinical trials to prove benefit may be quite costly. However, there needs to be more research. At this time, the anecdotal evidence from hundreds of people doesn’t count until it someone assembles the data.

In general, funding is a major challenge. This is equally true for all integrative, CAM (Complementary and Alternative Medicine) cutting edge therapies. It takes a lot of volunteer hours to overcome this barrier.

Break research barriers: write case reports

I spoke with one medical doctor who said that massage therapists may be discovering things all the time that medical science needs to know, but we aren’t writing it up. Even more so than chiropractors, we don’t have the training or funding. A few case reports sprinkled among dedicated massage therapists can change that.

Functional neurology coursework taught me to understand maps of nerves. Dermatomes_and_cutaneous_nerves_-_posteriorDermatomes_and_cutaneous_nerves_-_anteriorPlease, if you are a massage therapist, consider entering this field. Although it is hard to find MT coursework in the neurosciences, it puts you in a unique situation among your peers. It gives you much needed skills in the new pain science. It helps you treat head injuries more effectively. Moreover, it helps you uncover puzzles in neurological conditions. It even allows you to give hope to parents of children with ADD.

Feel free to contact me for referrals to research or case report writing resources. Or let me know what you find!

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