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How Does Rheumatologist’s Treatment Differ From Functional Medicine Practitioners?

Are you tired of feeling like your medical treatment options are limited? Do you want to explore alternative approaches to healthcare? If so, you’re not alone. Many people are turning to functional medicine practitioners to treat joint and autoimmune diseases. But how do they differ from traditional rheumatologists?

In this post, we’ll explore the differences between rheumatologists and functional medicine practitioners. Understanding these distinctions can help you make an informed decision about your healthcare options.

Rheumatologists: Traditional Medical Approach

Before we dive into the differences between rheumatologists and functional medicine practitioners, let’s understand what rheumatologists do. Rheumatologists are like the superheroes of the medical world, specializing in treating rheumatic diseases. You know, those pesky conditions that affect your joints, muscles, and even your connective tissues. Arthritis, lupus, and fibromyalgia are just a few examples of the villains they battle against.

What are Rheumatologists?

Rheumatologists are medical doctors who specialize in helping people with symptoms affecting their joints, bones, muscles, and sometimes organs. After four years of medical school, they undergo three additional years of training in internal medicine before getting certified.

Rheumatologists have in-depth knowledge of the immune system, including inflammatory and autoimmune conditions. They have the skills to identify different types of arthritis, such as inflammatory, osteoarthritis, and infectious arthritis.

How Do Rheumatologists Diagnose Patients?

When finding out what’s happening in your joints, rheumatologists have your back (or should we say your knees?). These medical superheroes specialize in diagnosing and treating diseases that affect your joints, muscles, and bones. But how exactly do they figure out what’s causing all that pain and stiffness?

Patient History

First, rheumatologists are like Sherlock Holmes when it comes to gathering clues. They take the time to listen to your story, asking questions about your symptoms, how long they’ve been bothering you, and whether they’re getting worse or better. They want to know everything, from family history to everyday activities. So, spill the beans, my friend!

Physical examination

Once they’ve got the scoop from you, it’s time for some hands-on action. Rheumatologists are pros at examining your joints, looking for signs of swelling, tenderness, or redness. They might also check your range of motion and muscle strength, ensuring everything works as it should. Don’t worry, it’s not a tickle party, but getting a feel of your situation is important.

Lab Tests

Next, the rheumatologist turns into a detective, ordering a series of lab tests to dig deeper into the mystery. Blood tests are standard practice to check for certain proteins, antibodies, and inflammation markers that can give valuable clues about what’s going on inside your body. It’s like CSI but with test tubes instead of crime scenes!

Imaging Studies

Sometimes, a rheumatologist may call in the big guns – imaging studies. These can include X-rays, ultrasound, or MRI scans to closely examine your joints and bones. It’s like they have superpowers that allow them to see through your skin and straight into your skeletal system. 

Collaborative Approach

Last but not least, rheumatologists believe in the power of teamwork. They work closely with other healthcare professionals, like physical therapists, occupational therapists, and nutritionists, to create a treatment plan that suits your specific needs. It’s like assembling an Avengers-style team of experts who are all focused on helping you feel better.

How Do Rheumatologists Help Manage Symptoms?

When treating rheumatic conditions, rheumatologists take a more traditional approach. They rely on tried and tested treatment modalities developed through years of medical research and practice. Let’s take a closer look at some of the methods they use:


Rheumatologists often prescribe medications to manage symptoms and slow the progression of rheumatic diseases. These can include nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs), and biological therapies. These medications help to reduce pain, control inflammation, and improve overall joint function.

Physical Therapy

Physical therapy is a common treatment option recommended by rheumatologists. This approach involves exercises and techniques to improve joint flexibility, strength, and range of motion. Physical therapists work closely with patients to design personalized exercise programs catering to their needs and abilities.

Joint Injections

In some cases, rheumatologists may administer joint injections to relieve pain and inflammation directly at the affected site. Common injections include corticosteroids, hyaluronic acid, and platelet-rich plasma (PRP) injections. These injections can provide temporary relief and are often used in conjunction with other treatment modalities.

Time for a Change?

While rheumatologists play an essential role in managing rheumatic conditions, some individuals seek alternative approaches. Functional medicine practitioners offer an alternative perspective, focusing on identifying and addressing the root causes of diseases rather than solely treating symptoms. In the next section, we’ll explore how functional medicine differs from the traditional medical approach and the potential benefits it may offer.

Functional Medicine Practitioners: A Holistic Approach

Are you tired of feeling like just another symptom on a checklist? It’s time to discover the world of functional medicine! While conventional doctors may try to treat you like a car in a repair shop, functional medicine practitioners take a different approach – they treat you like a unique individual with a name, not just a number.

So, what sets functional medicine apart? Let’s dive into the world of holistic healing and see how it stacks up against those bowtie-wearing, conventional rheumatologists.

What Is Functional Medicine?

Functional medicine is a personalized approach to healthcare that goes beyond just treating symptoms. It’s about identifying and addressing the root causes of your health problems using a patient-centered approach.

While rheumatologists focus on specific symptoms or conditions, functional medicine takes a step back and looks at the big picture. They want to know you, your story, and what’s been going on in your body. It’s like having a detective on your side, digging deep to find out the root causes of your aches and pains.

Functional medicine practitioners take a holistic approach to healthcare, focusing on identifying and addressing the root causes of health issues rather than just managing the symptoms. They view the body as an interconnected system, where imbalances in one area can impact overall health.

Philosophy and Principles of Functional Medicine

You might think medicine is all about popping pills and fixing symptoms, but functional medicine takes a different approach. It’s like the cool cousin of traditional medicine, with a personalized and integrative care style that sets it apart from the rest.

Addressing Root Causes

In functional medicine, doctors channel their inner Sherlock Holmes. Still, instead of solving crimes, they’re uncovering the root causes of your health issues. They’re like medical detectives digging deep to figure out why you’re feeling less than stellar. They don’t just slap a Band-Aid on the problem. They want to know what caused it in the first place. It’s like getting to the bottom of a mystery but with fewer deerstalkers and more lab coats.

Patient-Centered Approach

Ever felt like just a number at the doctor’s office? Well, in functional medicine, they’re not about that life. You are the star of the show, my friend. The functional medicine team sees you as a unique individual with your own quirks and needs. They take the time to listen to your story, your concerns, and your goals. It’s like having a conversation with a friend who actually cares about you. They’re not just treating symptoms; they’re treating you.

Personalized and Integrative Care

Functional medicine practitioners are the cool kids in town. They’ve got the personalized care game on lockdown. They don’t believe in a one-size-fits-all approach because, let’s face it, we’re all unique unicorns in this world. Moreover, they create tailor-made plans that fit you, taking into account your genetics, lifestyle, and environment. Other than that, they don’t just focus on one aspect of your health. They’re all about the mind-body connection. Plus, they bring in a squad of different therapies and treatments to help you reach your optimal well-being. It’s like having a whole posse of health superheroes fighting in your corner.

Promoting Self-Healing

Guess what? Your body isn’t just a pretty face; it’s actually equipped with some superhero-like self-healing powers. Functional medicine practitioners are all about tapping into those powers. They don’t just throw medication at you and call it a day. No, they empower you to take control of your own health. They give you the tools and knowledge to activate your body’s natural healing process. It’s like having your very own team of sidekicks cheering you on as you save the day!

How Do Functional Medicine Practitioners Diagnose Diseases?

When it comes to figuring out what’s going on with your body, functional medicine practitioners don’t play around. They use some fascinating methods that will blow your mind (in a good way, we promise!). Here’s a closer look at the diagnostic methods they use:

Comprehensive Medical History

Do you remember playing the 20 questions game with your friends? Well, consider a comprehensive medical history to be the 20 questions game on steroids. Functional medicine practitioners will ask detailed questions about your medical history to understand your health concern better. They will probe different aspects of your life, such as your lifestyle, diet, habits, stress levels, and environmental factors that could be potential triggers for your medical condition. No question is too personal or off-limits, so be prepared to spill the beans.

Functional Laboratory Testing

If you ever want to feel like a character from the famous show CSI, then functional laboratory testing is for you. Expect urine, saliva, and blood tests that will uncover clues hidden deep within your body about your health. Functional medicine practitioners will test your body’s core functions, nutrient markers, hormonal balance, and more. By the end of it, you’ll know more about your body than you ever did before.

Stool Analysis

If you ever thought that stool analysis was just about your bowel movements, then think again. Your gut is a hotbed of microorganisms that can impact your health in ways you might not even imagine. A comprehensive stool analysis evaluates the DNA of the bacteria, yeast, parasites, and allergens present in your gut. Functional medicine practitioners will then use this information to determine the best course of action to optimize gut health. So, don’t be shy about discussing your bowel movements with our practitioner; they’re quite used to it.

Food Sensitivity Testing

Are you still confused about which food is your foe or friend? You’re not alone. Food sensitivity testing can help identify any food that your body may be reacting negatively. Through these tests, functional medicine practitioners will pinpoint which food triggers inflammatory responses and cause you discomfort. From there, you can adjust your diet and know what to eat and what to avoid to feel your best.

How Do Functional Medicine Practitioners Help Manage Symptoms?

The battle for good health is like a game of chess – you need to have the right moves to win. When it comes to managing symptoms, functional medicine practitioners bring out their secret weapons to tackle the enemy, one symptom at a time.

Nutritional Interventions

Food has always been the ultimate superhero when it comes to our well-being. Functional medicine practitioners embrace this truth with open arms and a grumbling stomach. They believe that “food is medicine” isn’t just a catchy phrase; it’s a way of life!


Just like Batman needs Robin, our bodies sometimes need a little extra help. While functional medicine practitioners focus on optimizing your diet, they know that sometimes you need a little boost in the form of supplements.

Think of supplements as the sidekicks that have your back. From joint-supporting superheroes like glucosamine and fish oil to the energy-boosting vitamin B12, these trusty allies help fill in the nutritional gaps and keep you fighting fit!

Lifestyle Modifications

They say that success is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration. Well, the same goes for managing your symptoms – it’s all about lifestyle modifications! Functional medicine practitioners know that small changes can make a big difference, so they’ll help you tweak your daily routine to support your well-being.

Forget about drastic changes or following complicated rules. These lifestyle modifications are like mini-makeovers for your habits – simple, enjoyable, and tailored to your unique needs. Get ready to say hello to a healthier you!

Mind-Body Approaches

Just like a good movie needs a strong script and an amazing cast, managing symptoms requires a holistic approach that includes your mind and body. Functional medicine practitioners are like the directors of your health journey, exploring the mind-body connection to help you unlock the power within!

Key Differences between Rheumatologists and Functional Medicine Practitioners

Let’s dive into the main difference between these two medical superheroes! While rheumatologists focus on managing symptoms and easing the pain, functional medicine practitioners take a more detective-like approach to uncover the real root causes behind those aches and pains. Think of them as medical Sherlock Holmes, solving the mystery behind your body’s quirks!

Difference #1: Addressing the Root Cause

Picture this: you’re experiencing joint pain, fatigue, and inflammation. You go to a rheumatologist, and they focus on managing these symptoms using medication. But what if there is an underlying cause that’s contributing to your symptoms? That’s where functional medicine practitioners shine! They take a detective-like approach, exploring the potential root causes of your condition. They delve into your diet, stress levels, sleep patterns, and even environmental factors to uncover the true triggers. By addressing these underlying causes, functional medicine helps you achieve long-lasting relief and sustainable wellness.

Difference #2: Holistic Lifestyle Interventions

Now, let’s talk about how these two types of healthcare providers approach treatment plans. Rheumatologists often rely heavily on medications to alleviate symptoms and manage specific conditions. While medication can be helpful, functional medicine practitioners understand that health encompasses all aspects of our lives. They put great emphasis on holistic lifestyle interventions like nutrition, exercise, stress management, and sleep. They believe that true healing comes from within and that nurturing your body and mind is essential for optimal health. Imagine having a team of experts cheering you on as you make positive changes in your lifestyle—how empowering is that?

Difference #3: Individualized Care

When it comes to treatment, one size definitely doesn’t fit all. Rheumatologists tend to focus on disease-specific treatment plans. They tailor their approach based on established medical protocols. On the other hand, functional medicine practitioners embrace the uniqueness of each individual. They take the time to listen to your story, understand your goals, and craft a personalized treatment plan just for you. It’s like having a customized roadmap to better health tailored specifically to your needs and preferences.

Difference #4: The Power of Time and Attention

Do you ever feel rushed during doctor appointments? Well, you’re not alone. Traditional medical consultations often have time constraints, limiting the depth of the conversation. But functional medicine takes a different approach. Practitioners in this field prioritize patient-centered, comprehensive assessments. They spend more time with you, actively listening and asking thoughtful questions. This allows them to gain a deeper understanding of your overall health and create a more holistic and personalized approach to your care. Now, that’s what we call healthcare with a human touch!

Choosing Between Rheumatologists and Functional Medicine Practitioners

Choosing between a rheumatologist and a functional medicine practitioner depends on your individual needs and preferences. Here are a few factors to consider:

Conventional Treatment vs. Holistic Lifestyle: Do you prefer a more conventional approach with medications and procedures, or are you open to exploring lifestyle changes and natural remedies?

Diagnosis vs. Optimization: Are you primarily seeking a diagnosis for your condition, or are you looking to optimize your overall health and well-being?

Personalized vs. Standardized Care: Are you seeking a personalized treatment plan that addresses your unique needs, or do you prefer a standardized approach?

Remember, there’s no one-size-fits-all answer here. The important thing is to find a healthcare practitioner who aligns with your values and goals for your health journey. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, seek second opinions, and trust your gut feeling.

Now that you have a better understanding of the differences between rheumatologists and functional medicine practitioners, you can make an informed decision on the best path for your healing journey. Remember, the most important thing is finding a healthcare provider who listens, supports, and empowers you on your road to wellness. Happy healing!

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We discovered that this way of life not only helps people with various issues, including autoimmune, chronic issues and “I-don’t-feel-good-itis.”

Functional medicine drastically changed our lives and using it I developed The KNEW Method to help others who are suffering or not feeling optimal.

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