A Chinese University study has highlighted a non-invasive way of helping stroke patients recover, using a massage-like technique to promote blood flow to the brain. The S.H. Ho Cardiovascular Disease and Stroke Centre released the study yesterday, which found that the external counterpulsation (ECP) treatment - already used on heart attack patients - encourages recovery in ischemic stroke victims. An ischemic stroke occurs when an artery carrying blood to the brain is blocked. ECP promotes blood flow to the brain with air cuffs wrapped around the hips, thighs and calves. The cuffs inflate and deflate in a rhythm linked to the patients' electrocardiogram, aiding blood flow from the lower limbs with a massage-like motion. The study followed 32 moderately disabled stroke patients with a mean age of 68, whose treatment began on an average of six days after their stroke. It found after 35 days of one-hour ECP treatments that the patients' blood pressure was increased by 13 per cent, heart function by 74 per cent, and blood flows to each side of the brain by 9 per cent. Professor Lawrence Wong Ka-sing - head of the neurology division in the Department of Medicine and Therapeutics - led the study from September 2009 to December 2010. Professor Thomas Leung Wai-hong, who was part of the study, said: "The new, non-invasive treatment is like a traditional Chinese massage. I don't think it causes much discomfort for the patient." At yesterday's press conference, a 53-year-old patient could walk freely following treatment after a stroke in July that left half his body unable to function. Wong said his recovery was much more advanced than it would have been with conventional treatment methods.