Many people suffer from stiff and painful joints but are unhappy about taking too many painkillers to treat it.

There is nothing worse than aches and pains that refuse to go away no matter what treatments are tried.

More and more people are turning to alternative methods to see if they can help, often with startling results.

Traditional Chinese philosophy states that health is dependent on the body's motivating energy - known as qi - moving in a smooth and balanced way through a series of meridians (channels) beneath the skin.

For any number of reasons, qi may become unbalanced and lead to illness. Acupuncture is now regarded by many as a valid and effective method of treatment but, for some, the idea of needles puts them off.

They might prefer one of the huge number of other Chinese healing arts.

Many people are familiar with t'ai chi. Less well known is a branch of it called buqi (pronounced boochee). It differs from others in that it is a hands-off, rather than hands-on, treatment.

The practitioner puts his hands a few inches above the patient's body to direct "stagnant" energy out through their hands and feet.

According to the buqi method, illness is caused by negative energy, known as binqi (binchee), accumulating in the body. Binqi blocks energy channels that run through the torso.

Healthy bodies expel binqi naturally but problems such as mental stress and body posture cause binqi to become blocked. Buqi unblocks the binqi and the body gets better.

In buqi, the range of different binqi are considered as direct pathogenic factors. They accumulate in the intervertebral spaces, organs, muscles, tissues, joints and channels.

Binqi not only accumulates in one place but can move in and out of the body. Any area of the body in which binqi has accumulated or to which binqi has moved will experience uncomfortable sensations such as cold, heat, itching, stiffness, pain, etc.

As a result, that area will become weaker, there will be varied symptoms and, after a certain time, different diseases will develop.

Buqi is a complete healing technique and practioners claim to be able to cure a wide variety of illnesses and ailments.

After one session, the patient is given "self-healing exercises" to do at home. These are based on t'ai chi.

Deborah Cosbey from Lewes, an acupuncturist for 17 years, works in the Hastings and Rye area.

She has been practising buqi for about five years and says the feedback from patients has been extremely good.

From her experience, Deborah has found that buqi is particularly good for muscle or joint problems, where there is stiffness or pain.

She said: "My patients seem to respond positively to this treatment when other therapies have failed."

Buqi uses the same energy pathways as acupuncture to rid the body of unwanted stagnation and bring in fresh new energy to revitalise and nourish the whole system.

"People usually feel heat or cold or heaviness moving through their body as the blockages are being released.

"It has a very positive effect and the results have been very pleasing.

"I practise buqi myself all the time so that I am energised and ready to help patients in the treatment room. It works very well and the number of people interested in trying it out is growing steadily.

"I have people coming to me for acupuncuture treatments and sometimes, towards the end of the session, we will try the buqi method as well.

"People are interested in trying new things nowadays. If they have been trying for ages to do something about their aches and pains and nothing is working, they are more likely to agree to look at doing something else."

Writer Rosalyn Lewis, a patient of Deborah's, said: "I found buqi really helped my ankle.

"I didn't know a lot about the therapy but it worked which was very pleasing."

For more details about buqi, call 01273 476211.