The MS Hug, as it is called, (though it is not like any hug you
could ever want) is technically a type of neuropathic pain classified as a type
of paresthesia (felt in the chest and/or rib
cage area. Basically you have tiny muscles between each rib
(intercostal muscles) that help hold your rib cage together as you breath in
and out as well as allow your torso to flex and bend; it is believed that a
lesion in the spinal cord causes them to contract/spasm creating the sensation
that your chest is caving in or the sensation that you are wearing a tight
girdle (a girdle is kind of like a corset). This pain is usually felt in the
chest but can reach down to your abdomen and sometimes around your back, but as
always with MS, everyone is a little different. This can last from
minutes, to hours, to days at a time often making it feel painful or difficult
to breathe, even making you feel the need to vomit.
the only way to know for sure is to see your neurologist who may want to get an
MRI done before giving you a round of steroids. Other than that, there is not much that can be done
except for simple exercises to help “manage” the pain or discomfort
associated with the MS Hug. Everyone finds that something different may help
them; here are a few examples:
- Deep Breathing –
Breathe in deeply through your nose and out through your mouth, I would
personally imagine trying to use the air I inhaled to stretch out my chest when
- Drink Warm Liquid –
(Depending on your heat sensitivity) some people say that drinking a warm
beverage can help relax your muscles a bit.
- Take a Warm Bath –
Again, this depends on your heat sensitivity! Some people with MS just CAN
NOT handle any kind of heat, which causes their MS to flare up. If
this is not the case for you then maybe a warm bath/shower can help your
muscles loosen up?
- Wear Loose Clothes –
This is obvious if you feel constricted but still worth mentioning,
wear loose clothes! No muscle shirts!
- Ibuprofen – This can
help relieve some inflammation and kill some pain but don’t take too much or
else you can cause other gastrointestinal issues….
- Massage – Though I have
never tried this for The Hug some people say it actually helps them relax!
- Mind Over Matter –
This is not for all, definitely not for me, but some people can
find relief from closing their eyes and picturing something causing their
pain and then imagining that the source of their pain is disappearing or being
eliminating resulting relief of their MS Hug pain. Good luck!
medication for spasticity such as Baclofen, Valium (diazapam), Ativan
(lorazepam) or Xanaflex (tizanidine). Of course you can also try Neurontin (gabapentin) or Lyrica
(pregabalin) but the results on those have not been impressive in my own
experience and from what I have heard from others; talk to your neurologist!
My Personal Experience
experience with the MS Hug was horrible in every which way the word
“horrible” can imply. When I first encountered the hug I remember
lying on my back with my legs propped up on a chair for hours. I felt like
someone had parked a truck on my stomach! I felt it in my stomach and ribs
mostly but I do recall it stretching around my sides towards my lower back. I
wanted to throw up so bad that I could not eat; it was all just way too
tight… At the time I was in far too much pain and misery to look up online
what I could do to relieve the symptom so I just lied there and tried to get
comfortable so I could sleep.
had it a few times after that but not nearly as bad… For me personally I just
try to stretch my chest and ribs out with deep breathing and light stretching.
So far medication has not done the trick for me so it’s all up to
non-medication symptom management. I am not sure if a warm shower or bath would
help as I was pretty sensitive to even minor heat at the time but now I can
tolerate a warm shower so if I ever deal with the hug again I might try that
out. Painkillers like Norco did OK at simply
masking the pain for a couple hours but that’s all it did, mask it (what else
do narcotics do?). Deep breathing and stretching worked best for me for