Background Gulf War Illness is a Complex Medical Illness characterized by multiple symptoms, including fatigue, sleep and mood disturbances, cognitive dysfunction, and musculoskeletal pain affecting veterans of the first Gulf War. No standard of care treatment exists. Methods This pragmatic Randomized Clinical Trial tested the effects of individualized acupuncture treatments offered in extant acupuncture practices in the community; practitioners had at least 5 years of experience plus additional training provided by the study. Veterans with diagnosed symptoms of Gulf War Illness were randomized to either six months of biweekly acupuncture treatments (group 1, n = 52) or 2 months of waitlist followed by weekly acupuncture treatments (group 2, n = 52). Measurements were taken at baseline, 2, 4 and 6 months. The primary outcome is the SF-36 physical component scale score (SF-36P) and the secondary outcome is the McGill Pain scale. Results Of the 104 subjects who underwent randomization, 85 completed the protocol (82%). A clinically and statistically significant average improvement of 9.4 points (p = 0.03) in the SF-36P was observed for group 1 at month 6 compared to group 2, adjusting for baseline pain. The secondary outcome of McGill pain index produced similar results; at 6 months, group 1 was estimated to experience a reduction of approximately 3.6 points (p = 0.04) compared to group 2. Conclusions Individualized acupuncture treatment of sufficient dose appears to offer significant relief of physical disability and pain for veterans with Gulf War Illness. This work was supported by the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs through the Gulf War Illness Research Program under Award No. W81XWH-09-2-0064. Opinions, interpretations, conclusions and recommendations are those of the author and are not necessarily endorsed by the Department of Defense.
Conboy, L., Gerke, T., Hsu, K. Y., John, M. S., Goldstein, M., & Schnyer, R. (2016). The effectiveness of individualized acupuncture protocols in the treatment of Gulf war illness: A pragmatic randomized clinical trial. PLoS ONE, 11(3). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0149161