General, Health and Fitness, Physical Therapy, Sport Medicine

What is Functional Medicine and How Does it Work?

Have you ever seen a Venn diagram? It was probably something you drew in school at some point in time, maybe in a biology or math class (although you can pretty much apply it to anything).

A Venn diagram, which can look a little like the Olympics symbols, involves a variety of circles connected together, typically with an intersection in the middle where all of the circles coalesce, which represents what all of the circles have in common. A Venn diagram doesn’t have a specific amount of circles and can have a variety of intersections and commonalities and is a helpful exercise in discovering how things may be different and also the same.

Believe it or not, when you were working on these diagrams as a kid, you were learning a bit about how functional medicine works, as you were looking at the root of where everything interacts and functions.  


What is Functional Medicine?

Functional medicine is a patient-centered approach to medicine that tries to identify the root cause of a disease, taking into consideration how a series of symptoms may be contributing to a patient’s illness. 

A functional medicine provider will listen to a patient’s ailments and put together a medical history. The provider then takes the information and symptoms and puts together a comprehensive health plan for the patient to address physical needs like nutrition and exercise as well as emotional stressors involving work and family. 

According to the Institute of Functional Medicine website, one condition may have many causes and one cause may have many conditions. For example, depression may cause a patient to experience antibiotic use, an Omega-3 deficiency, low thyroid, be pre-diabetes, and also have a Vitamin D deficiency. On the other hand, inflammation as a condition may lead to depression, heart disease, arthritis, cancer, and diabetes. Thus, some conditions overlap or may bring about other conditions. It’s important to figure out what the root of the problem might be. 


Who Can Benefit from Functional Medicine?

Patients who experience chronic illnesses or conditions may benefit from this form of medicine, including those who suffer from:

  • Arthritis
  • Asthma
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Diabetes
  • Digestive disorders
  • Environmental and food allergies
  • And more


How Does Functional Medicine Work?

A visit with a functional medicine provider won’t be much different than a visit to any doctor. The first thing you will do is fill out a medical questionnaire, which will ask you about your lifestyle (diet, prescriptions, etc.), genetics (any conditions that run in your family), and environment (whether you live with a smoker or live near somewhere that might trigger your allergies, for example). 

During this first appointment, which typically lasts between three and four hours, you will have a physical exam, lab tests, identify health goals, and discuss follow-up care. You may also meet with a provider and engage in a group session with other patients that is led by a health coach and a registered dietitian. 

woman pulling resistance bands over her head

How Does Functional Medicine Factor Into Physical Therapy?

In just the last few years, physical therapy has been included in the Institute of Functional Medicine certification program, with physical therapists now eligible to become certified practitioners. Because functional medicine looks at the patient as a whole, this also relates to physical therapy, since many physical therapists are working with patients in a format where they look at their body as a whole, rather than just specific trouble areas. 

Plus, similar to the way one-on-one physical therapy involves a direct relationship between the physical therapist and the patient, where the therapist forms a personalized connection to the patient, functional medicine involves providers taking a humanized approach, where they get to know the patient’s history and story. 

Also, since functional medicine often involves healthy life plans that may include implementing new diets, exercises, and nutrition programs, this is where physical therapy might intersect with functional medicine on a Venn diagram, since nutrition and physical health are aspects physical therapists are concerned with as healthcare professionals. Physical therapists, like functional medicine providers, often develop and introduce healthy life plans to put into action for their patients as a part of recovery. 


Contact Us

Do you have more questions about functional medicine and how it might work when it comes to physical therapy? Reach out to Love Health with any questions or concerns. Whether it’s sports medicine or functional medicine, Love Health has expert physicians and a top-flight staff to support you with whatever medical services you need, providing individualized therapy to get you back on your feet or maybe even off your feet. We have locations in North Tampa, St. Petersburg, South Sarasota, North Sarasota, and Brandon. And if you’re in Pennsylvania, we also have a clinic in Philadelphia. 

To schedule an appointment, contact us at 1-800-511-8050 or get in touch via our contact link on here

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