OU on the BBC: Alternative Medicine - Programme 1: Acupuncture

Kathy Sykes investigates the 2,000 year-old practice of acupuncture for the BBC/OU series Alternative Medicine

By: The Alternative Medicine webteam (Programme and web teams)

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Kathy Sykes Copyrighted image Copyright: Production team

Kathy begins her journey in China where she sees some incredible demonstrations of acupuncture. The most astonishing is a scene in a Chinese hospital in which doctors perform open heart surgery on a young woman - using a combination of acupuncture and conventional pain relief instead of a general anaesthetic. In China, she discovers, acupuncture is used alongside western medicine and, at times, as a replacement.

So, what does western science make of these claims? Kathy meets the key scientists, both in the UK and in the US, who have put them to the test. She discovers that - although for most conditions and illnesses acupuncture cannot be shown to work - scientists have, intriguingly, uncovered a number of conditions relating to chronic pain in which they can be fairly certain acupuncture is having a powerful effect.

Kathy recruits a team of top scientists and alternative practitioners to find out if acupuncture might be having an effect. Over several months they devise an experiment which they hope will find the answer and finally uncover the secrets of acupuncture. Kathy and her team scan the brains of volunteers undergoing acupuncture. The conclusions challenge current understandings of the workings of the brain and throws new light on this ancient practice.

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This page was updated on 25th June 2007 to clarify the nature of the surgery undertaken with hypnosis support

First broadcast: Tuesday 24 Jan 2006 on BBC TWO

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