USC doctor prescribes acupuncture for Gulf War Syndrome

Students practice acupuncture.
Students practice acupuncture.

Listen to story

Download this story 0MB

More than 100,000 veterans of the first Gulf War's Operation Desert Storm are now living with Gulf War Syndrome, a chronic, multi-symptom disorder that may be caused by exposure to toxic chemicals.

So far, there’s no cure. But one doctor believes Eastern medicine may provide relief.

"The symptoms of Gulf War Syndrome include fatigue, skin rashes, muscle and joint pain, difficulty concentrating and emotional problems," says Lisa Conboy, a clinical instructor at Harvard Medical School. "Because it’s such a complex condition, treatment is elusive. [...] It would be fantastic if there could be some relief for these veterans it’s been more than 20 years that they’ve been in discomfort."

Conboy is studying the effects of acupuncture in treating Gulf War veterans who show signs of the illness.

Her studies are still preliminary. But she told students at USC that anecdotal evidence indicates the ancient Chinese practice may be providing relief.

What’s more, she says, compared to potential drug treatments, acupuncture is much more cost-effective.

Eighty-five Gulf War vets in Massachusetts are now enrolled in Conboy’s research, which is funded by the Department of Defense.