Dr. Robert Kornfeld
Chronic Foot Pain Center
369 Lexington Ave – 8th Floor – New York, N.Y. 10017
12 Irma Ave. Port Washington, N.Y. 11050
One of the things human beings have always strived for is progress. We are always looking for better ways to influence our lives for the positive. Forward-thinking people have made the human experience better and better over time. If you look back at the past 100 years, you cannot help but see signs of incredible progress in almost every area of human life.
However, as our population continues to increase and the side effects of progress (pollution and toxicity) continue to have adverse effects on the health of the public, we need to take a closer look at health care in this country. While it is true that progress in technology has enabled huge advancements in looking inside the human body for diagnostic purposes, has facilitated the creation of drugs (that improve the quality of life) and fostered incredible surgical intervention which has enabled millions of people to heal from trauma; become free from chronic pain; and live longer than they otherwise would have, we are now faced with an ever-increasing problem. More and more people are suffering from chronic pain than ever before and unfortunately our current paradigm of medical care is all too quick to medicate these people with narcotic analgesics and anti-inflammatory drugs that may relieve pain but also can cause disabling side effects. These drugs add toxic load to a system already under attack by the onslaught of toxins overwhelming our environment, air, food and water.
As a doctor specializing in treating chronic foot and ankle pain for more than 35 years, it has been my commitment for the past 30 years to heal the pain my patients suffer with while at the same time assisting them in improving their overall health. This is the missing link in our current traditional medical system. We need to minimize the need for ongoing chronic care and this cannot be accomplished with drug therapy.
The pink elephant in the examination rooms across America is nature. Nature is largely ignored as a source of treatment and more importantly, as a source of understanding human pathology. We are unmistakably an intimate part of nature. Every function of the human body is pre-ordained by nature. When we look at the natural functioning of the human body and associate it with its natural environment, we will unravel the clues to understanding how best to treat the burgeoning lifestyle and environmentally induced pathology we are now dealing with.
That said, we now find ourselves at the cutting edge of a new, safe, natural and supportive approach to treating chronic pain. And this approach is borne out of an understanding of a critically important natural physiologic system of the human body…the endocannabinoid system. The endocannabinoid system is a network of receptors in the human body that may well be the backbone of homeostasis (the efficient functioning of all systems of the human body). These receptors serve as a signaling system in the human body and they are present in the central nervous system (CB1 receptors) as well as the peripheral nervous system and immune system (CB2 receptors).
This system was discovered and named as a result of studying the effects of marijuana (derived from the plant cannabis sativa). The main psycho-active constituent of marijuana is THC (TetraHydroCannabinol). Scientists discovered in the 1960’s that the reason marijuana has the effects it has is that the THC binds to this receptor network in the human body and induces feelings of exhilaration, relaxation and a feeling of well-being. These are the very same effects induced by endogenous neurotransmitters and endorphins – naturally occurring chemicals in the human body- that are the guardians of homeostasis. These naturally occurring chemicals can either keep our bodies running smoothly or intervene on behalf of health threats to guide the immune system to either repair and replace our cells (primary inflammation) or to protect the cells that cannot be repaired or replaced (chronic inflammation).
With this understanding, we begin to see that instead of using drugs to block pain and inflammation, supporting and stimulating the endocannabinoid system can drive the human body to heal and repair. It’s important to note that both pain and inflammation are natural defense mechanisms. When we ingest drugs that block pain and inflammation, we are essentially blocking our defense mechanisms. To be clear, each night when we go to sleep, the pathway of primary inflammation works to detoxify our cells, repair injured cells and replace dead cells. This is a natural pathway that produces no pain and is essential for the maintenance of homeostasis. This is why sleep is so important. However, if the immune system is burdened by poor quality food (the kind they sell in every supermarket in America), toxins from air and water, high levels of stress, lack of sleep and any number of other mechanisms causing immune deficiency, the pathway of primary inflammation will be overwhelmed and inefficient. This is when the immune system recruits the pathway of chronic inflammation because it will protect what cannot be repaired. This is the pathway causing all of our pain. But without it, we have no defense or protection.
When we use drugs to block pain and inflammation, we wind up with a long list of potentially dangerous side effects. What has kept THC out of the realm of treating chronic pain is its association with inebriation and the fact that it is classified as an illegal drug. However, the cannabis species of plants also contain high amounts of another naturally occurring compound known as CBD oil (CannaBiDiol). CBD has no psycho-active properties so there is no associated “high” with ingesting it. The beautiful thing about CBD is it is not classified as a drug, is legal in all 50 states, does not require a medical marijuana prescription and binds to our CB1 and CB2 receptors to drive a more potent primary inflammatory response since it fosters a similar response as our naturally occurring neurotransmitters and endorphins. What is more remarkable is that it is not associated with any of the side-effects that are seen with drug therapy. Taken as directed it is incredibly safe. And if taken consistently, it can relieve pain and inflammation and reduce or eliminate the need for drug therapy. It is available in capsules, sub-lingual gels, tinctures and topical salves. It can also be utilized in an intra-venous drip for more potent delivery (which must be administered by a physician). When we realize that CBD oil works with our bodies instead of against it (as drugs do), we understand why its safety profile is so high and why we are seeing the positive benefits that we are seeing. It is my sincere hope and belief that CBD oil will, in time, become accepted as part of the standard of care for pain and inflammation. It is safe and it is proving itself to be efficacious. To me, as a doctor, it’s a win-win.