Background: Functional Neurology (FN), a seemingly attractive treatment approach used by some chiropractors, proposes to have an effect on a multitude of conditions but some of its concepts are controversial.
Objectives and design: A scoping review was performed to describe, in the context of chiropractic manual therapy, 1) the FN theories, and 2) its clinical applications (i.e. its indications, examination procedures, treatment modalities, treatment plans, and clinical outcomes) using four sources: i) one key textbook, ii) the scientific peer-reviewed literature, iii) websites from chiropractors using FN, and iv) semi-structured interviews of chiropractors using FN.
Methods: The scientific literature was searched in PubMed, PsycINFO, and SPORTDiscus, completed by a hand search in the journal Functional Neurology, Rehabilitation and Ergonomics (November 2016 and March 2017, respectively). The only textbook on the topic we found was included and articles were chosen if they had an element of manual therapy. There was no restriction for study design but discussion papers were excluded. Websites were found in Google using the search term “Functional Neurology”. Chiropractors, known to use FN, were invited based on their geographical location. Theories were mainly uncovered in the textbook as were all aspects of the clinical applications except treatment plans. The other three sources were used for the five aspects of clinical applications. Results were summarized and reported extensively in tables.
Results: Eleven articles were included, five websites scrutinized, and four semi-structured interviews performed. FN is based on the belief that reversible lesions in the nervous system are the cause of a multitude of conditions and that specific clusters of neurons can be positively affected by manipulative therapy, but also by many other stimuli. Diagnostic procedures include both conventional and unusual tests, with an interpretation specific to FN. Initial treatment is intense and clinical outcomes reported as positive.
Conclusion: FN gives the impression to be a complex alternative to the old variant of the chiropractic subluxation model, in which the vertebral subluxation is replaced by “physiological lesions” of the brain, and the treatment, spinal adjustments, are complemented by various neurological stimuli. Both models purport to treat not the symptoms but the cause. We conclude there is a need for more scientific documentation on the validity of FN.
Author keywords: Functional neurology — Chiropractic — Spinal manipulation — Scoping review
Author affiliations: ALM, CL-Y: Complexité, Innovation et Activités Motrices et Sportives, Université Paris-Saclay; ALM, CL-Y: Complexité, Innovation et Activités Motrices et Sportives, Université d'Orléans; ALM, CL-Y: Institut Franco Européen de Chiropraxie;
AM: School of Health Professions, Murdoch University; SE: School of Veterinary and Biomedical Sciences, Murdoch University
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