Some patients with a functional disorder contact a chiropractor on their own initiative. Therefore, it is important that chiropractors have some basic knowledge about functional disorders – partly to be able to offer the best possible treatment, partly to avoid iatrogenic damage.


A functional disorder presents itself with multiple symptoms from various organ systems. However, a patient will primarily be presenting the symptoms from the musculoskeletal system to the chiropractor. This is possibly because the patient expects that the chiropractor can take care of this part of the problem. It may therefore be necessary that the practitioners ask about the other symptoms on their own initiative.

Some patients experience symptoms that have developed following a specific trauma. In some cases, it may be a very mild trauma which has caused the symptoms – symptoms that may seem severe considering the nature of the trauma. A trauma can easily be the triggering cause of a functional disorder, but more often there are several factors at play that maintain and worsen the condition.

Patients with functional disorders will often present a diffuse symptom picture. There may be concomitant symptoms such as increased fatigue following physical exertion, stomach pain, palpitation, fluctuating stools and dizziness.

Often the patient experiences a pronounced fluctuating activity level. One day the patient has a high activity level with a striking endurance, whereas the next day there is a surprisingly low endurance level. This is characteristic of functional disorders.

Read more about the diagnostic criteria.



Functional disorders should be regarded and treated from a so-called bio-psycho-social model. In order to reach the best possible outcome of the treatment, it is therefore important for the chiropractor and the patient to look beyond the usual way of thinking that illnesses are either physical or psychological.

It is important not to stick to the conviction that e.g. a whiplash trauma or a mild case of scoliosis is the only cause of the patient's many symptoms.

There is evidence that patients with functional disorders will benefit from graded exercise therapy. The training is slow and gradual, and the patient's limits are established and challenged without being transcended. Chiropractors can use the principles of graded exercise therapy in their treatment.


A guide to graded exercise therapy:






Comments on content: 
Revised 04.01.2018