The Department of Defense has made a $1.2 million research grant to the New England School of Acupuncture (located in Newton, Massachusetts). The goal of the study is to determine the effectiveness of acupuncture in the treatment of Gulf War Illness (GWI). The study is a double-blind, randomized investigation. The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) will assist investigators in the recruitment of patients with GWI. Participants will receive bi-weekly acupuncture treatments. The acupuncturists performing the research will have a 5 year minimum of clinical experience and will also receive a 20 hour training in the symptoms of GWI.
The etiology of GWI is not fully understood within the parameters of conventional medicine. GWI is a syndrome that includes symptoms such as fatigue, musculoskeletal pain, sleep and mood disorders, and difficulty with concentration. GWI may include PTSD (post-traumatic stress syndrome), depression, anxiety disorders, digestive disorders, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, and several psychiatric disturbances. Approximately 100,000 veterans of the first Gulf War (Operation Desert Shield/Storm) have been diagnosed with GWI. The official cause of GWI is unknown but officials consider the following as causal factors: vaccine exposure, chemical weapon exposure, pesticide exposure, smoke, stress related to combat and deployment. The Centers for Disease Control (CDCP) suggests that the syndrome indicates possible damage to the nervous system. Acupuncture research has documented its success in the treatment of fatigue, anxiety, irritability, insomnia, and pain. For this reason, the researchers believe that acupuncture will have benefits to veterans with GWI.