For three years, Mark Farrington has provided NADA, qi-gong, mindfulness meditation, biofeedback and psychotherapy at The Veterans Integrative Pain Center at the Hunter Holmes McGuire VA Medical Center in Richmond, Virginia.
The focus of the clinic is training veterans in skills to help them learn to self-manage chronic pain. Mark stresses that the NADA protocol is not used as a stand-alone treatment. “In our clinic, it is used as a preparation for all the other components of the clinic – the focus of the clinic is not to make pain go away but rather to give patients skills to manage their pain. We certainly have patients (like Cecil, see page 8) who in the process do have significant pain reduction and that is a bonus!” The small team includes a physical therapist, two part-time psychologists and a part-time physician acupuncturist.
“What intrigues me,” says Mark, “is how similar NADA operates in this program as in addiction recovery settings.” The program is designed to have clients do NADA groups first because, Mark points out, it is hard to learn new skills when the nervous system is “jacked up.” He adds, “Non-verbal treatment helps clients learn trust which allows them to engage in mindfulness meditation, tai chi, etc. It works really well in that way.”
Cecil not only gets his acupuncture at the clinic where Mark works, he also gets kindness and respect. Cecil told us that when he goes to the VA hospital which is in an adjacent building, he has to take half of a lorazepam – “it’s like going into enemy territory.” Not so at the pain clinic, because “they’re different, they’re nice.”
Part of this might be due to the fact that the program is designed to empower the patients. For example, the program is set up to be as barrier-free as possible. New patients come for a walk-in orientation and can start the NADA treatments immediately. Mark also told us that NADA’s founder, Michael Smith, encouraged him to teach his patients how to use the beads on themselves. It helps their physical symptoms and enables them to help themselves.
Mark runs a mindfulness group for the veterans. A woman in the group shared her concerns about a baby girl she was fostering. The girl’s mother suffered from addiction, and the baby was very restless and did not like people touching her. Mark told the foster parent about the magnetic beads and gave her a treatment. She liked the results so Mark showed her how to apply them and sent her home with beads for the baby. She came in the next week and told Mark the baby had stopped her continuous crying, was sleeping at night, and allowed people to pick her up.
Spirit of NADA: Cecil’s Story
“It’s been amazing, it’s saving my life.” These are the first words Cecil used when describing what the NADA protocol has done for him. Cecil is a Vietnam veteran suffering from phantom leg pain. His leg was amputated six years ago, and he had been in excruciating pain for most of the time since the surgery.
When asked to describe the pain on a scale of one to ten, he said, “Get a bigger chart.” By the time he got to the pain clinic at the Veterans Administration (VA) in Richmond, Virginia (see page x), he said “the pain was so bad that he thought he would lose his mind.” He came in to the acupuncture “real negative, but it worked – almost instantly.”
“I thought suicide was my only choice for relief. Thank the Lord and the NADA protocol that I’m alive today.”
Cecil had two kinds of pain – a burning pain on the top of the foot and what felt like an ice pick stabbing him on the bottom of the foot. The pain could last anywhere from 15 to 35 hours. Whenever he began to feel a twinge on the bottom of his foot, he would start to cry because he knew what was coming. But since NADA, “the change has been phenomenal.” The treatments cut down on the burning pain and knocked out the stabbing pain. He told us that he has gone from “sheer dread and fear” to “it’s almost like I’m free.”
Cecil started the NADA protocol in August 2016, and, from the start, he was “wowed” by how good he felt. The program at the VA runs four days a week for four weeks. Three weeks after he completed the program, he had a flare-up and has returned to the clinic for weekly acupuncture. Mark Farrington, who works at the pain clinic as a psychiatric clinical nurse specialist, showed him how to use the magnetic beads on himself, and the combination is “doing the trick” for him.
“This has been a godsend for me. I used to sit here wondering when it was going to hit again.” Now Cecil spends more time reading one or more of his two-thousand book collection and planning on how he will entertain his six-month old grandson, Roman. But first he wants to share his story about the NADA protocol. He hopes that by talking about his situation, he will be helping other people.