Spring still seems to be a long way off as people try and shake off the winter blues.

Siobhan Ryan looks at how therapies such as acupuncture and shiatsu can help them stop feeling flat, burnt out and run down.

At the moment there are many people who feel they still want to hibernate despite kicking off the new year with good intentions about losing weight and getting fit Fans of alternative therapies say the end to the western winter blues may lie with an eastern approach.

According to acupuncturist David Bennett, from Rottingdean, winter is a Yin time in acupuncture and shiatsu therapy.

This means that compared to the Yang time of summer, we should be less active, rest more, keep warm and withdraw a little from life like animals and plants.

But instead of curling up with a good book by the fire people go against nature and spend their time rushing around preparing for Christmas and New Year.

In acupuncture and shiatsu terms, this seasonal lifestyle particularly depletes people's kidney energy from which their power and drive will arise.

Mr Bennett, who runs the Marine Clinic in Rottingdean, said: "If your energy reserves are dipping into the red then this can manifest as the lack of vitality and enthusiasm so many of us feel.

"All around us things are starting to grow and change and we need to adapt and get into that mood ourselves. Acupuncture can help restore the quality and quantity of energy available to people.

"There are a high number of suicides at this time of year. Part of the reason is that people are feeling isolated as they see changes and developments taking place all around them while they are staying the same.

"The aim of acupuncture therapies is to help improve health and wellbeing but it can also be preventative if used on a regular basis."

People who are nervous of needles can take up a course of shiatsu, which uses more gentle massage and stretching techniques.

Mr Bennett said: "The shiatsu method does not work at the same level as acupuncture but for those who are a little uncertain it can be very beneficial."

Originating about 2000 years ago in the Far East, acupuncture is the stimulation of special points on the body, usually by the insertion of fine needles. In its original form it was based on the principles of traditional Chinese medicine.

According to these, the workings of the human body are controlled by a vital force or energy called "Qi" (pronounced "chee"), which circulates between the organs along channels called meridians.

There are 12 main meridians, and these correspond to 12 major functions or "organs" of the body.

Qi energy must flow in the correct strength and quality through each of these meridians and organs for health to be maintained. The acupuncture points are located along the meridians and provide a way of of altering the flow of Qi.

An important concept used by acupuncturists is the "trigger point." This is an area of increased sensitivity within a muscle which is said to cause a characteristic pattern of referred pain in a related segment of the body.

An example might be tender areas in the muscles of the neck and shoulder which relate to various patterns of headache.

Details about acupuncture and shiatsu are available from Mr Bennett on 01273 307001.