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The Effects of Tai Chi on Gulf War Illness

Gulf War illness (GWI) is a chronic and multi-symptom disorder affecting military veterans deployed to the 1991 Persian Gulf War. It is characterized by a range of acute and chronic symptoms, including but not limited to, fatigue, sleep disturbances, psychological problems, cognitive deficits, widespread pain, and respiratory and gastrointestinal difficulties. The prevalence of many of these chronic symptoms affecting Gulf War veterans occur at markedly elevated rates compared to nondeployed contemporary veterans. To date, no effective treatments for GWI have been identified.

Tufts University School of Medicine led an umbrella review to evaluate the evidence for the potential of Tai Chi mind-body exercise to benefit and alleviate GWI symptomology. Based on the most prevalent GWI chronic symptoms and case definitions established by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Kansas Gulf War Veterans Health Initiative Program, they reviewed and summarized the evidence from 7 published systematic reviews and meta-analyses.

Their findings suggest that Tai Chi may have the potential for distinct therapeutic benefits on the major prevalent symptoms of GWI. Future clinical trials are warranted to examine the feasibility, efficacy, durability and potential mechanisms of Tai Chi for improving health outcomes and relieving symptomology in GWI.

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