To complement “Functional Medicine: The Role of Massage Therapy” in the March 2016 issue of MASSAGE Magazine.


Western medicine is disease-oriented, meaning when a physician runs standard blood work, he looks for an established disease such as cancer, high cholesterol or arthritis. This is problematic, because many patients might not have an actual disease, even though they are experiencing chronic symptoms. Contrastingly, Functional Medicine is wellness-oriented, meaning the Functional Medicine practitioner summons many tests, and it is with these tests that possible answers start to come to the surface.

The real causes of an individual’s health problems lie below the surface, according to Functional Medicine. A patient’s illness may be apparent on the surface, and a series of drugs or common treatments may be applied, but when a patient is no longer responding to drugs or common treatments, where does he turn? Many people are turning to complementary medicines and treatments.


Regulation of Functional Medicine

The practice of Functional Medicine is growing at an accelerated rate, but who is regulating the industry? As most fitness experts know, the industry of personal trainers is filled with trainers who have not truly been certified, nor do they have the experience and knowledge to help others. No one can doubt the success and growth of this industry, but it is still far behind with regards to regulations and standards. Likewise, with Functional Medicine, there are several schools and universities that offer quality training, but many practitioners are self-taught and do not have the tools to practice it and offer effective results.

Understanding Functional Medicine starts from inside the heart and brain of a practitioner. He or she must have the burning desire to help others. Sure, practitioners go to school with the basic concept of helping others—but do they all have sleepless nights, wondering what is causing their patients’ pain or why their illness is not going away?

I have always compared the best Functional Medicine doctor to secret agent Angus MacGyver. MacGyver worked as a troubleshooter. In the television program MacGyver, he was a fictional scientist; he was resourceful, and possessed an encyclopedic knowledge of the physical sciences. He solved complex problems by making extraordinary things out of ordinary objects.

My view and belief is that a great Functional Medicine doctor thinks and approaches his patients the same way. How deep should a doctor dig to find his or her patients’ pain, or how long should he or she continue to look? How about until you can dig no deeper—and forever? This might sound unrealistic, but it’s not. I have been referred to by many people as “the medical detective.” I love this title, as it not only fits me and what I am all about, but it fits the description of a great Functional Medicine doctor.


Functional Medicine and Massage

Massage therapy is essential to Functional Medicine, and it is becoming usual to see massage therapy offered at Functional Medicine clinics. Functional Medicine addresses the impact stress has on the immune system and immune-related diseases. Massage therapy is also a powerful and effective treatment modality to decrease stress, improve general circulation and encourage the natural movement of lymph flow.

A massage therapist uses her hands to palpate to determine problem areas. The massage therapist might detect tightness or trigger points. I have read many stories about massage therapists who were blind, and in fact they have senses in their hands that are more precise due to their lack of sight. A great massage therapist also has a strong sense of empathy and strives to use his massage techniques to help improve a client’s well-being.

Of course, this attitude results in loyalty and more business, but the rewards for the therapist are far greater than that. Education, years of practice and experience are all necessary to become a great functional medicine practitioner or massage therapist, but heart and desire to heal and find the causes of pain and illnesses are the keys to success.


About the Author

Ron Grisanti, D.C., is the founder and president of Functional Medicine University and one of the developers of FMLogics™ patient history software, as well as an author, educator and chiropractic clinic owner for more than 40 years. He is a Doctor of Chiropractic, Certified Functional Medicine Practitioner, Diplomate of the American Clinical Board of Nutrition, Diplomate of the American Board for Chiropractic Orthopedists, and holds a master’s degree in nutritional science. He wrote “Functional Medicine: The Role of Massage Therapy” for the March 2016 issue of MASSAGE Magazine.