An Insight into Functional Neurological Disorder

Jun 11, 2024

Have you ever heard of FND??

I would like to start by saying that I am absolutely not an expert on FND – but over the last 30 years as a physio, 25 of which I have incorporated craniosacral therapy – I have seen more clients over the last 5 years with FND than I’ve seen throughout my whole career. It is estimated that 50,000 to 100,000 people in the UK have FND yet many healthcare professionals have never heard of it, and worse than that, ‘believe’ in it.  Women are disproportionally affected, making up between 60 and 75% of patients. It can strike at any age but seldom seen in patients under 10. Most of my clients over the years have been in their late teens and under the age of thirty. This blog aims to provide insights into symptoms, treatments and an exploration into a personal story of one of my clients – to gain an understanding of the complex nature of the condition, how it can affect lives and how you can be more empathetic to those affected by it.

FND describes a problem with how the brain receives and sends information to the rest of the body. There is no ‘damage’ to the structure of the brain but (therefore very different to conductions such as MS and Parkinsons), and those affected can experience problems with leg and arm weakness, involuntary movements, problems with walking, speech difficulties, pain, fatigue, and problems with seeing or hearing. It is a condition that stands at the crossroads of neurology and psychiatry, is often misunderstood and misdiagnosed. No single test can diagnose FND, although other neurological disorders are often excluded first. In the UK, treatment approaches  will vary from county to county but an FND clinic often includes consultant care, physiotherapy, occupational therapy, psychological therapy and pain management strategies.

Craniosacral therapy and physiotherapy can be a useful adjunct to help towards the recovery of FND.

Lucy was a 20-year-old student when I first met her, 3 months after the onset of her symptoms. Her route to diagnosis took a little while, then she was under the care of neurology and a consultant who specialises in FND. When she first attended for her appointment, she was in a wheelchair, struggled to stand or transfer to the treatment couch. She had spent a considerable amount of time in hospital and had been seen by many different specialists. Her anxiety and mental health were significantly impacted, understandably –  her usual busy student life had ceased and she had come home back to the North East to be cared for by her father. The next piece of the story is told by Lucy’s dad.

“I was introduced to Vicky and Taylored Fit at a really difficult time. My daughter had become ill with a neurological condition and literally overnight had lost the ability to walk and function normally. It was a really scary time for us both.

Vicky suggested that Craniosacral Therapy could help with the symptoms, and we began a fortnightly course of treatment.

The change in my daughter’s symptoms was almost immediate and our visits to Vicky became a vital part of her recovery, alongside her physio and psychological appointments.

Vicky immediately understood and crucially for my daughter believed her from the outset, which was really important in a condition that isn’t well known. She listened, validated how she was feeling, made suggestions of different ways to manage and created an atmosphere of relaxation and safety.

We often jokingly referred to the treatment itself as black magic because Vicky made it look so effortless and it just worked. In reality I know there was a lot more to it.

My daughter has now made a pretty much full recovery, has returned to uni, where she graduates in July, by which time she will have started a full time journalism job with a national newspaper. Vicky and her team have played a vital role in making that happen and we are both very grateful for the care and healing that Taylored Fit gave us at the most difficult of times.”

I am sure you will agree, these heartfelt words are really powerful, and demonstrates the impact this condition can have on the whole family. My role in Lucy’s recovery was a small one and it focused on using CranioSacral therapy – including holding space, allowing the body and nervous system to do what it needed to do, facilitating releases, validating, believing, empowering, and my experience as a physio to make suggestions regarding rehabilitation.

Two months after starting treatment, Lucy walked to my treatment room from reception with a walking stick – 2 months later she was walking unaided round Edinburgh and going on holiday. The joy I witnessed on Lucy and her dads faces will stay with me always.

This. This is why we do what we do. For the big moments, the small moments. The moments in time.

Thank you to Neil, Lucy’s dad, for sharing his insights and thank you to Lucy for trusting – trusting me, the process, and most importantly, her body. And huge good luck to Lucy  – you will absolutely boss your career and your life!!

 

Vicky Smith, business owner, physio, craniosacral therapist

If you’d like to know more about Upledger CranioSacral Therapy, head to our website.