Meridian massage may help increase infants’ physical growth and improve their health, according to a Korean study. A total of 169 healthy infant-mother pairs were assigned either to a meridian massage group (MM) or a gentle touch massage group (GM), based on the mother’s preference. Massages were conducted by the infants’ mothers for 15 minutes per session, once a day for six weeks. Significant differences were observed in weight and height in favour of the MM group at the end of the six-week period. In addition, infants in the MM group showed a significantly fewer number of clinic visits over six weeks, compared to those in the control group. (Effects of Meridian Massage on physical growth and infants’ health as perceived by mothers. Pediatr Int. 2011 Sep 14. doi: 10.1111 /j.1442-200X.2011.034 77.x. [Epub ahead of print]).

Researchers from the USA have reported that a single massage treatment can produce measurable changes in the immune and endocrine systems of healthy adults. The team compared 29 healthy adults who received a vigorous 45-minute Swedish massage with 24 healthy adults who received a 45-minute session of much milder light-touch massage. Blood samples were taken before the massage and at regular intervals up to one hour after the massage. The results showed positive changes in many immune parameters, including decreased levels of cortisol and anti-diuretic hormone (arginine-vasopressin [AVM), increased numbers of circulating lymphocytes an decreased levels of pro-inflammatory cytokines. The authors note that their findings may have implications for the management of inflammatory and autoimmune conditions. (A Preliminary Study of the Effects of a Single Session of Swedish Massage on Hypothalamic-Pituitary-Adrenal and Immune Function in Normal Individuals. J Altern Complement Med. 2010 Sep 1).

For more than 35 years, Audrey Telfer battled to overcome excruciating back pain. Conventional pills had failed her and, at the age of 67, the former finance manager yearned to enjoy her retirement without feeling drained of energy and worn down by constant pain.

She tried a course of physiotherapy which helped but when therapist Karen Dearden, of the Newcastle Sports injury Clinic, suggested acupuncture, the ancient Chinese treatment, she was more than a little sceptical.

But after a couple of 45 minute sessions, combined with 12 combinations of different herbs in powder form, she couldn’t believe the difference.

“The pain was really getting me down. I had tried painkillers but they didn’t work and I found I didn’t have the energy to do very much,” she said.

“But after a few treatments, people were telling me I looked so much better. It was a real tonic. Obviously I’m not cured – as well as back pain, I have asthma and arthritis – but the Chinese medicine has been a real tonic. It’s all about rebalancing the body’”

Acupuncturist Feras Jerjis believes people should take control of their own health and often recommends exercises that people can do in between sessions.

Acupuncture involves inserting fine metal needles in to any of 360 specially designated points on the body. It is used to relieve pain and treat all kinds of ailments by manipulating the body’s energy flow, called ‘chi’, allowing the body to balance and heal itself. Chi travels through the meridians in the body and where it becomes blocked or stagnant, disease or ill health can exist.

An acupuncturist will pinpoint a weakness in your chain of energy and treat it according to your symptoms. Chi enables the body to function and flows through invisible meridians, each of which is named after and related to an organ, including lungs, kidney, stomach, spleen or kidney. Meridians run through many parts of the body  and every point along a specific meridian will be disaffected by disharmony at other points. For example, the teeth are part of the stomach meridian. You should feel a tingling sensation when the needle penetrates the skin. If you feel nothing, it is unlikely the correct acupuncture point has been needled.

Mr Jerjis said: ”Insertion of the needles is painless and during the 20 to 30 minutes that the needles are in. people frequently experience a deep level of relaxation and can often fall asleep.”

The clinic is one of the very few centres in the North East where all five branches of traditional Chinese Medicine  (TCM) are practices with equal emphasis.

They include Tui Na Massage (Tweeno)  which involves deep tissue massage that concentrated on pressure points and joint mobilisation. Nick Hudis, the clinic’s Tui Na therapist said: “People may at first be wary of deep massage which at times can be painful but as chronic aches and pains drop away they are soon hooked.”

Diet therapy is one of the main foundations of traditional `Chinese Medicine, and based on the principal that poor eating habits and food that is too rich hampers digestion and causes ill health.

Qigong, pronounced Chee gung, is also practised at the clinic. It teaches slow gentle movements and as well as maintaining suppleness and calming the mind it is said to reduce high blood pressure, boost the immune system and regulate the metabolism. In China Qigong is popular among cancer patients.