The Science of Acupuncture

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BBC Documentary on Traditional Chinese Medicine. For thousands of years, what we now think of as Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) was the only medicine; now, traditional cures are being treated with a fresh respect. For BBC TWO, scientist Professor Kathy Sykes from Bristol University Kathy Sykes investigates why science is starting to respond to these centuries-old remedies….

Alternative Medicine: The Evidence on Acupuncture 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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  • Mary

    I have used acupuncture for fibromylagia several times and I am very intrigued by alternative treatments for chronic pain. This documentary was well done, with compelling personal and scientific and medical support.

  • peterpieman

    What a load of placebo nonsense.

    • peterpieman

      Of course the person having open heart surgery had painkillers. Notice how they purposefully avoid saying that she has no pain killers.