After a car accident left Karen Schneider suffering from chronic headaches, she feared nothing would ever be the same. Then, she discovered an ancient “massage” that changed everything. Learn Karen’s story and uncover the art of gua sha.
On a sunny day in the spring of 2020, Karen Schneider reached down to start her lawn mower and felt a shock of numbness run through her face and neck. “What is happening to me?” she thought. “First the constant headaches, now this?”
Then just days later, she lost her ability to swallow and was rushed to the emergency room. There, doctors explained that arthritis in her neck and jaw and a degenerative disc disease had been exacerbated by a car accident in 2019. Now, the inflammation from both conditions was causing swallowing issues and migraines.
To Karen’s relief, her ability to swallow returned, but her migraines persisted daily. She tried everything to treat them, from acupuncture to consulting with dentists, osteopaths, ENTs and chiropractors … but nothing helped. “This may only get worse,” Karen worried. “I can’t live like this, I have to find a way to stop this agony!”
A Miraculous Cure: Gua Sha
One day, while scrolling through Instagram on the hunt for answers, Karen came across a video about a treatment called gua sha, an ancient Chinese massage method that employs a smooth-edged stone with different shaped edges. It’s used to lightly stroke the skin and break up stagnant energy — called “chi” — to stimulate the lymphatic system and blood flow.
Researching the technique, Karen discovered that the gentle “scraping” of gua sha reduces tissue-damaging inflammation. It also activates a nerve relay in the brain called the spino-thalamo-cortical pathway, which inhibits pain.
Intrigued, Karen ordered a gua sha facial tool online for $6 — though it’s now $8 (Buy from Amazon, $7.99). The first day, as she followed the instructions and glided the stone tool gently up and down her neck and over her face, head, and upper chest, she was shocked at the almost instant relief she felt.
“In 10 minutes, the pain in my jaw and head disappeared!” Karen gushed to friends. She continued to do the gua sha massage for a few minutes every morning and night. Not only did her pain dissipate, but she also discovered interesting feel-good tricks, like cooling the stone in the fridge for extra relief or adding a skin-soothing serum.
“I couldn’t believe it,” marvels the 66-year-old, who still manages her chronic pain with gua sha to this day.
Karen’s discovery is backed by research, too. “Gua sha is associated with a reduction of pain and inflammation,” explained Andrew Weil, MD. Also, a 2017 study published in Complementary Therapies in Medicine found that gua sha can reduce pain and improve movement.
“I am nearly pain-free and no longer have to even use ibuprofen. It took me almost two years to get this figured out and find something that could help me — and I feel so empowered and encouraged. It was the best $6 I ever spent!”
Want to try out this tried-and-true massage yourself? Check out the below tutorial after you purchase your own gua sha. You won’t be disappointed!
This article originally appeared in our print magazine, Woman’s World.