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$1.2 Million Grant from the U.S. Department of Defense to Study Acupuncture

By: New England School of Acupuncture

NEWTON, MA (June 23, 2010) - The New England School of Acupuncture (NESA) is the recipient of a $1.2 million U.S. Department of Defense grant to fund a first-of-its-kind clinical trial: the Effectiveness of Acupuncture in the Treatment of Gulf War Illness (GWI).

In the first treatment trial ever performed to research the effectiveness of acupuncture on GWI, NESA's researchers will study how acupuncture affects sufferers of this complex syndrome, which is characterized by many symptoms, including fatigue, musculoskeletal pain, headaches, dizziness, memory problems, indigestion, skin problems, shortness of breath, and mood disorders.

More than 100,000 of the 700,000 Gulf War veterans report chronic multi-symptom illnesses which persist for years after seeking treatment.  "Many veterans have received treatment directed towards their symptoms, but reports from five- and 10-year follow-ups show that symptoms remain, including some which are severe and disabling," says Lisa Conboy MA, MS, ScD, Co-director of the Research Department and Chair of the Biomedical Department at NESA, and Principal Investigator for NESA's upcoming clinical trial.  Conboy continues, "Clearly, an effective treatment for these conditions could be of great benefit to those suffering from Gulf War Illness."

The trial's participants will include 120 veterans from the Boston/New England area suffering from GWI.  They will be treated by licensed acupuncturists, who have a master's degree in acupuncture, and who have at least five years of clinical experience as well as extensive training in the diagnosis and treatment of the symptoms of GWI.

Veterans will receive care directed specifically to their most distressing symptom.  Although the specific etiology of GWI is unknown, previous research suggests that acupuncture is effective in the treatment of many of the symptoms of GWI.  Acupuncture is already commonly used in the West and  preliminary evidence from clinical research supports its use for many of the symptoms associated with this syndrome including fatigue and depression.  Acupuncture has also demonstrated efficacy for a variety of painful musculoskeletal disorders, and as a treatment for both acute and chronic pain after amputation in military contexts.  Further, there is evidence that acupuncture treatments may affect important mechanisms of healing such as stress mediation. 

"NESA is excited to have the opportunity to research the effectiveness of acupuncture on Gulf War Illness and hopefully provide veterans with a validated treatment option for GWI and much needed relief," comments Katherine Tallman, President of the New England School of Acupuncture.  "Research has demonstrated that acupuncture is effective in treating fatigue, irritability, anxiety, insomnia, and pain-many of the key symptoms of GWI­.  Since each acupuncture treatment is customized to address an individual's most distressing symptoms, it is particularly well-suited for treating the myriad of symptoms included in a GWI diagnosis."

The cause of GWI is unknown, and the symptoms cannot be explained by routine physical and laboratory examinations.  Ongoing investigations at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDCP), suggest that the symptoms reflect a range of injuries to the nervous system.  Researchers hypothesize that the factors leading to these injuries are not specific to the Persian Gulf region, and that veterans and active duty personnel of the current wars in Iraq and are being exposed to similar stressors and will benefit from an investigation of GWI and its treatment.

Established 1975, the New England School of Acupuncture ( is the first accredited educational institution for acupuncture & Oriental medicine in the nation.  NESA offers master's degree programs in acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine as well as a dual graduate degree program with Tufts University School of Medicine.  NESA is recognized for its academically rigorous programs, state-of-the-art clinical facilities, satellite clinical opportunities and federally funded research.  The institution is also a military and veteran friendly school that is approved to offer veteran benefits under the GI Bill.

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