The MS Hug

What is the “MS Hug”?

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.

How to Treat the MS Hug


Sometimes the MS Hug can mean your having an exacerbation but
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
    doing this.
  • 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



Some people find relief from
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



My
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.
I have
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
certain!
Last Updated; July 26, 2014

108 Responses to The MS Hug

  1. Anonymous says:

    I am so excited to find this article!!! I have been having these pains for about 3 months now and actually was hospitalized for a few days to have a heart cath done to make sure it wasn't the heart. Will be talking with my neurologist about this when I go back in July. I have MS for 19yrs now and in the secondary phase on Gilenya to try to slow down the progression. I am TRULY BLESSED and get regular exercise and careful with my eating habits. THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR SHARING THIS WITH ME now I can relax more about it. Teena from KY

  2. Hey no problem! It is definitely one of the DREADED symptoms out there and for good reasons! I have a minor case right now in my lower abdomen ironically, it's not as painful this time around as it's inconvenient, my stomach is so tight! ugh! Off for that warm shower haha…Good luck!

  3. swissie_5 says:

    Great article! Thanks so much for sharing it. I have inflammation pain daily, and had the MS hug for a few days last October, after a fall on the sidewalk losing my balance. I also thought that I was having a heart attack or stroke. Nobody knew what it was!

  4. Anonymous says:

    the very 1st time I had a 'hug' I actually prayed I would die! They are just that painful! I do find though that there are some 'triggers' like heat & a drastic change in my daily routine-drastic meaning staying outside ALL DAY & sitting for hours (usually at family gatherings) thats sounds so 'simple' I know but when I am home-I may not be doing MUCH but I am always doing SOMETHING maybe even walking from room to room LOL but I usually keep moving!

  5. Swissie – Thank you! Yeah a fall will do it and that's not the first time I have heard of the worries of a heart attack!

    Anonymous – Yeah the first time I had it, it was so painful I wanted to just curl up and die as well! It seems so sensitive, well for me at least, the basic stress in life will do it for me!

    • Anonymous says:

      I took a fall down my staircase in 2008 and developed this pain and have had it ever since, off and on. I have not been dxd with MS, but I have been dxd with Mixed Connective Tissue Disorder. My 23 yr old daughter was dxd 2 years ago with MS though and since a lot of our symptoms are similar, I wonder….

  6. Anonymous says:

    When I have this, the pain can be extreme, mostly in my back. If I didn't know better, I would swear it could be some kind of kidney attack. when it hits my chest, it feels more localized pain, but when I breath I would scream (if I could take in a breath that is) it hurts so bad. I never knew what to do. My doc thought It was my circulatory system also. endless heart tests (no prob found), put me on a med for it, but it's not that, it's the F'n HUG. It even happened during a doc visit, but he didn't do, or say anything about it.

    sleekcartim

  7. Yeah, it's just… Horrible… It's often misdiagnosed, it's just a symptoms, not a heart attack, but then again, better safe than sorry!

  8. Claudeviles says:

    Hey Matt, I wanted to ask you, can anxiety disorder cause an MS Hug like symptom? My Doc diagnosed me with anxiety disorder and like you I started developing weird symptoms within weeks which I will write later about later. I havent been to the neuro yet but yesterday after this weird tightness in my midriff,( a sort of band like sensation), I am starting to thing it was an MS HUG. Now here goes my paranoia, I know anxiety seems to imitate a lot of MS like symptoms but I dont think you get that sort of muscle stiffness like an MS HUG from Anxiety disorder. Now, I am so scared coz earlier I was ok with well this is an anxiety disorder now this 'hug' episode has put me one step forward to possible MS diagnose. I am so scared, lease respond as I am going crazy

  9. Hi, look, LOTS of thing can imitate that, ANYTHING neurological so do not worry. Just go in and see what the doc thinks and if anything ask for an MRI just to rule it out, don't worry yourself…

    • RJ says:

      What happens if you have a hugging like sensation in your back or like someone is placing hands directly on both sides of lungs would this be caused by ms or something else have mild shortness of breath bit hardly any coughing if any at all so not totally sire

  10. RoweCrow says:

    OMG…I've had this happen to me 5 or 6 times. 2 times, including last night, were so incredibly painful that I thought about calling an ambulance. Ultimately, I know that the hospital can't do anything for me–at least not anything worth the thousands of dollars and many hours it would take to go to the hospital. I took 1 mg of lorazepam, but I didn't notice any help at all. I vomited twice, and after the 2nd time, it loosened up, and I got some sleep. Now I feel the pain coming back right now. :,(,,

  11. Man… Yes… It is horrible to say THE LEAST… Nothing you can really do to make it go away, just things to help endure it… sorry!

  12. Anonymous says:

    Thank you for shining a light on my "mystery". I've been having this pain in between my breasts and was rushed to the ER a few days ago. Instead of finding a Cardio MD, I'll be seeing my Neuro MD. Thanks again and God Bless!

  13. Yeah it was SOME mystery at first but once I found out it was a relief because to think your having a heart attack at 20 years old was not right haha…

    • Although I don't supposedly have MS I've got severe fibro. About 3 wks ago I had an attack out of nowhere that was literally like having a heart attack. I didn't think anything of it exceot it hurt a lot until it it moved from the right side to the left side and up into my jaw and down my left arm causing it to go numb. Well needless to say that landed me an overnight visit in the hospital..lol. Pain Dx noncardiac. Several test run incl CT, xray, labs. The pain is still there off and on and I've got to try to get back to Dr, but I believe this to be a MS hug because it was radiating all thru my arms chest and ribs and I was having trouble breathing. Having a mild case of asthma doesn't help either. Talking about something extremely painful…wow. There's not much I can take Tylenol Arthritis ER or Ultram and I have to be careful with it due to medines I'm in and any more repeated mini strokes.

  14. Anonymous says:

    I have intercostal neuralgia and have found my "miracle drug." It sounds like I am selling it, but I am really not. 🙂 I take something called Fibromaylgia Relief. I order it from Amazon, where it is the cheapest. Drugstore.com and Walgreens also sell it. It is a homeopathic type medication that has a lot of magnesium for muscle and nerve conditions. You have to read the directions to know exactly how to take it, first you put it under your tongue for about 20 sec, then swallow it. I was really skeptical at first until I could see a Huge difference in my pain level. I have also learned that Carlson fish oil helps a lot. Just thought I would comment to try to help others out there with similar problems.

  15. Interesting! If I ever get the hug again I will look into it, thanks!

  16. Kristy says:

    Just going through the ringer right now with MS diagnosis. Everything has been just so "wrong", painful, dizzy and over all "ill" for a year now. Im getting this pain you speak of. Mine came on for days, I could barely breath which lead to over breathing and I ended up in the hospital with tachycardia syncopee, ultimately a small heart attack and loss of consciousness. It happened three times in two months. I was given ativan to keep the heart rate low when this happens. Of course they never said what the initial issue was, but it sounds just like this! I also get random knife stabbing pain right below the rib, cant breath, to suck a breath in would be the worst thing ever..wait it out..lucky it recedes after 30 seconds..they just told me its neuro related..thank you very much for the article 🙂

    • Chrissy says:

      Glad yours only lasts short time but if longer and need help a chiropractor might help. I get Ms hug all the time. Never knew what it was -ty. Area your talking off could be bulging 1st rib. I had bad last Xmas after cold

  17. Yeah I don't think most people understand this, it's not a TYPICAL symptom that the books teach you about. A SPECIALIST would MAYBE know. But wow, sound like it hit you hard! No more of that haha…. Take care!

  18. Mary Adragna says:

    The deep breathing does wonders. I practice it every single day and no longer have the hugs on a daily basis. When I do they are annoying and uncomfortable, but they are no longer painful and/or crippling. I also take Yoga for MS classes weekly.

  19. T W says:

    I had this in college usually near and around finals (stress induced), had no clue then what was causing it. But like you a slight position of comfort was lying on my back with my feet and lower legs on a chair barely breathing. Now I have been officially diagnosed after my MRI showed typical lesions. Every now and then still get the feeling one of my ribs is catching a muscle as I move, but not to the extreme that I had to endure in college. Thank you for sharing this it, as it is a good topic and one I didn't associate until recently as an MS problem.

  20. Anonymous says:

    Wait – if you are having chest pains – don't wait and avoid going in to the ER to have it checked instead by your neuro later! HEART ATTACKS can KILL you!! Not blaming the author here, this was one of the best explanations of MS hug I have read – But please, always go to the ER for unexplained head, chest, arm and breathing pain. Your life is more important! And you can have heart attacks and strokes at any age – we gotta take care of ourselves! =)

  21. Jennifer Robinson says:

    I think this is what I have. The girdle tightening feeling, but mine lasts for months at a time & I have no pain or difficulty breathing.

  22. Yeah, definitely go to the ER and make sure nothing is wrong first, don't blame everything on MS right away!

  23. TW – eah, lots of people seem to have this and say they never knew what it was… It was so painful I just had to know but now? I think I get it often but it's not painful anymore, just really tight and hard to breathe but as with most things, I just got used to it and hardly notice it. It's definitely not like what I remember!

    Jenifer – Then you are lucky! This was so painful! Now I am just tight all the time and sometimes it feels tough to breathe

  24. Anonymous says:

    Does anyone ever get a stabbing feeling in the sternum or breastbone. the white bone where all the ribs meet up? It feels like a knife is in my chest and a lot of pressure and it even hurts more when I stretch. it sounds kinda like what you describe.

    • Susanna DeCerbo says:

      Yes, I have been having it for several days. Wasn’t sure if it was GERD or MS Hug. I was diagnosed 15 years ago but still freak out when a new symptom appears.

  25. That sounds to be the hug alright….

  26. hi matt ive been getting the chest problemm like my dhest crushing into my back for nearly a yr now along with other ms symptoms, but my neuro doesnt think ive got ms but sending me for ct scan, why is thatt when most people get sent for mri confused.com

    • misty says:

      a ct scan could show any sort of lung condition or a pinched nerve. but it could just be the so-called hug. hope you feel better soon

  27. Hi, a CT scan can not tell you if you have MS or not… it HAS to be an MRI….

  28. dont know why im having that then guess he knows and as he thinks i havnt got ms must be looking for something else thank you for your reply

  29. I am not sure… Maybe he is just doing it to "shut you up" since I am sure a CT is WAAAAAAY cheaper than an MRI? I am sure that is just me playing devils advocate haha

  30. your probly right as these days alot of doctord dont seem to have commpation and i know there is a reason i feel like crap every day 🙁 oh well guess il have to live with it and lie in limbo thanx matt

  31. had phone call from hospital today they are now doing mri scan must have heard you say fobbing me off lol,so thumbs up to that 🙂

  32. lol well, good luck then!

  33. EA K-L says:

    I've yet to experience the MS hug (thank gosh for small favors, eh?!) but I did experience years of doctors telling me any of my symptoms were in my head. After falling down stairs because my left leg gave out, amid numerous other sypmtoms, (my biological dad has MS so I was familiar with it) I was told I had an inner ear infection, a migraine, and that I was exaggerating my symptoms because my father had MS. Seven doctors later, at the age of twenty, I was diagnosed with MS by a wonderful person to whom I just thanked the other day for taking me seriously. He reviewed my chart and confirmed my symptoms. Without ever even examining me (direct quote: You should have had an MRI, like, yesterday.), he scheduled an MRI and lumbar puncture the next morning, and I had my diagnosis three days later.
    For those of you struggling with any kind of symptoms, please don't give up. You are your only advocate for your health and you know your body best. If you feel your primary care doctor isn't giving you the treatment you feel you deserve, keep pushing forward. I am 28 now, and because I was aggressive and knew something was wrong with my body, we were able to catch my MS early. My spine is still clear and I have been free from any new symptoms for 5 years thanks to careful maintenance.
    Take your health seriously! We only get one life and it's up to you on how you spend it. Don't let MS or any other chronic or acute illness control your precious time with your family.

  34. Well said, I agree, no one cares about your health more than YOU!

  35. Debbie says:

    When you have this MS Hug, does it hurt worse, when you sneeze, cough, etc? Does the skin feel sore also? I have not been dx with MS but have a lot of the symptoms. This is my second time with this, 1st time on right side, this time a year later on the left side.

  36. Honestly? I don't remember, it has been so long…

  37. Anonymous says:

    I recently started having this (Ms hug)problem. I have had all test done to eliminate a heart ailment. My GP said it is not my heart. I'm a 72 year F/cancer servivor (throat-15 years).I have many MS problems and will be seeing a Neuro soon after I have my MRI done. My ENT ordered this and referred me to the Neuro. This MS hug is the most scarey thing yet. Usually it happens at night just sitting in a chair watching TV then BANG, it feel exactly what they say may be a heart attack in women chest pain – problem breathing – pain traveling to my jaw – etc, The last time this happened I was shopping at Wallmart. It was so bad my husband wanted to take me to the hospital immediately, It lasted about 10 min. This was about 3 weeks ago, nothing since. I'm glad my heart tests were normal, still a worry though.

  38. Good you got the heart test, that is weird, only ten minutes? Mine lasted all day if not days!

  39. Band of pain, does stress make it worse? Like stabbing needs and can't hardly Stan to get dressed..MS?

  40. Stress makes EVERYTHING worse, especially for me, sounds like MS

  41. craig reason says:

    HI.MATT…Been..following..your..posts..and..vidios..since..i..got.DX..back..in..2011….have..lerned..a..lot..from..you.mate..so..want..to.say.thank.you..Im..Craig..by..the..way..another..Gay..Man..from..South//Waes..UK………Looking..forward..to..reading…more..from..you..and..watching..more..Videos….Keep..them..coming..mate

  42. Glad they helped! "Another gay man" I think it's just how you worded it and your not implying that I am gay but I am not haha. How is the disease treating you now?

  43. craig reason says:

    it..was..the..way..i..worded..it..mate..haha..firstly..sorry..for..all..the..full..stops..think..my..keyboard..has..MS..2..as..the..space..bar..has..stopped..working……..Im..good..but..get..bad..days..and..good..days………but..the..depression…gets..to.me..more.than..anything……..wish..i..could..turn..back..the..clock..mate….where..i..could..wald..normal..again….yet..should..be..glad..i.can..still..get..about…..PPMS..is..the.type..i..got…seems..to..have..got..a..lot..worse..over..the//last..12..months…hope..ya..good..mate..ant..thanks..again..for..all..the..info..you..are.posting..Craig

  44. Haha yeah I thought so. But PPMS, so no one will give you DMD…. Lame…. I think it's just a matter of living a healthy life style, diet, exercise, sleep, etc. But glad you find it helpful!

  45. Peter says:

    My doctor had a pharmacist compound magnesium and ibuprofen (10%) in a topical cream. I run about a gram on my chest and it helps, and fairly quickly. There is a prescription topical nsaid , voltaran gel, that may work.

  46. I have never heard of that, that's awesome! If I ever have the hug again I will have to try that, or something like it, but have not had it in a long time!

  47. Peter says:

    "rub about a gram on my chest". In England there is an OTC topical ibuprofen called Ibuleve that works really well that I occasionally use. You can order it online. The first time I had this I thought I was having a heart attack and ended up at the hospital having a stress test. I decided I was crazy and it wasn't until I started trying to locate where the tightness and pain was coming from that I realized it was the little muscles in my ribs. It wasn't until I mentioned that fact to my neurologist that he told me this was common. About two years after the first time! Mine has never been as bad as Matt describes but I am still getting it years later. Ugh. Zanaflex and especially THC (marinol) also work but are slow and with side effects. I imagine smoked cannabis would be fast.

  48. Anonymous says:

    Hi guys, I wonder if any one can give me any advice. 2 yrs ago I saw a neurologist. Had just had a sling for incontinence, and had severe neck pain and balance problems vertigo on and off and some definite loss of colour vision. He rules out ms with a nerve conduction test. says neuralgia. I see a rheumatologist because of aches pains and debilitating fatigue, and he says fibro. I get referred pain clinic, they say it''s not nerve pain, not fibro, Refuse me pain killers so I quit my job. they told me to see a phychiatrist. I haven't . Too depressed now to even make an appt. One year, no wages. No money.
    3 months ago. This hug, maybe, Wont go to hospital because so tired of being thought of as a hypochondriac. Ist and 2nd times about a month apart, doing nothing, starts abruptly, feels like a pulled diagphram muscle, cant move, can hardly breath, spreads around ribs, not all way, mostly in front. Thought I was having a heart attack.
    two nights ago, and last night, going for my evening walk. Started again, this time, have had a few days severe back pain thoracic, through to xiphisternum felts like a broken back, . suddenly pain increases incredibly, bra too tight , pain spreads over back, being pummeled, thinking muscle spasms back, cant walk, petrified. wait, improves, start walking again, gets worse, spreads around bottom rib cage to centre pain at front. Seem to be some relief adjusting bra straps, putting pressure on area. Call for a lift home, cold packs, deep breathing, passes. Happens again last night. Scared to go for a walk now! I guess I want to know, does it sound like the hug ?( I have terrible jerks and spasms and needle pricks and blurred vision though not other symptoms like speech problems, and some others, If not , I will bite the bullet and see the doc next time, I hate it. I am sure they look up my file and see 'hypochondriac' It's humiliating
    thanks for your help. Elizabeth Sydney

  49. That sounds exactly like the hug. My advice is simple; get a second opinion from another neurologist. Are you in the UK/EU? I know the second opinions can take for ever over there but its worth it. Some docs just blow cases like this off as "it's stress" or "it's all in your head" and that sounds like what is going on with you. A nerve conduction test can't confirm or disprove MS, you need an MRI and a spinal tap/lumbar puncture to confirm so you need to find a doctor who will actually order the necessary tests before saying "nope, it's not MS".

  50. Anonymous says:

    thanks Matt, am actually in Australia. I like your web site. !!
    Elizabeth, Sydney au

  51. Haha well, I knew you were somewhere outside the USA because of how you spelled color/colour haha. I know a lot of people from Australia with MS, I would die there, too hot and I live in the desert!

  52. Bevy says:

    Can it be stabbing pain and burning as well? I have reflux disease as well as MS so I am not sure which one is which. How would I know ? I have been having a burning stabbing pain all around the left side of my chest and back. It has been happening for almost 2 weeks. It isn't tight feeling just burning and stabbing. Sometimes it happens out of nowhere and I am on the ground in pain

  53. Bevy says:

    Can it be stabbing pain and burning as well? I have reflux disease as well as MS so I am not sure which one is which. How would I know ? I have been having a burning stabbing pain all around the left side of my chest and back. It has been happening for almost 2 weeks. It isn't tight feeling just burning and stabbing. Sometimes it happens out of nowhere and I am on the ground in pain

  54. Bevy says:

    I was diagnosed 2 years ago with MS. For the last week I have had a gassy and stabbing pain on left side of chest, back and ribcage. Only located and has been on the left side. I also have reflux disease so I am not sure if this is Ms or reflux. I am also getting a stabbing pain every now and again in the same spot that stops me dead In my tracks and then "poof" it's gone before I could even think about it. I don't have any tightening just stabbing and burning. Is this the hug?

  55. Well I am not sure, it could be NS but the "hug" is a tight feeling which is why it's called the "hug", it feels like something is hugging you really tight

  56. Of all my MS symptoms the blindness the numbness & all the others the hug for me is the worse of them all soooo bloody painful at times I can hardly breathe 🙂 I'm still smiling though so f@@k you MS x

  57. Anonymous says:

    This happened to me last winter and the winter before and now I have it again. I went to the ER the first two times and they blamed it on other things… muscle pull, etc. And of course since I am on Gilenya for MS they had to do a bunch of test to rule out heart problems. I guess I'm just wondering why this is only happening to me in the winter time? My guess would be that Im less active therefore not stretching or exercising enough. — Jenny M

  58. Anonymous says:

    I was treated for acid reflux and then for gas…. with no relief. It eventually went away on its own the last two times. Jenny M

  59. That os maybe it has to do with the temperature? Cold can make muscles tightens and that is what the hug kind of is, small muscle contractions around the ribs.

  60. Matt I have all over itching and prickling which flares up every couple months, alo ng with som e stabbing pains and minor muscle twitching…do you think I should pursue testing? I had a round of ms testing 11 years ago and all was negarive. These are new symptoms however.

  61. I have all over itching amd prickling, minor muscle twitches, and stabbing sensations… the itching flares up every few months. Do you think I should pursue testing? Had ep, mri, spinal tap etc 11 years ago but all negative. These arw different symptoms however.

  62. Well I would. With MS, negative does not mean you don't have MS, sometimes it's a matter of catching it at the right time…

  63. I am newly diagnosed (12/15/2013) – One of my symptoms was the MS Hug. Yeah, total bummer. Nice to see someone else talk about it, feels like someone gets it. Great blog!
    BTW~ One remedy I did to relieve the pain of the hug is a "spanx-like" slim wear top. Used in my pre-MS days to smooth bra lines, etc – it did help. I don't know what this exactly does, but it worked to reduce the "annoying" factor of the squeeze. mind over matter?
    Ever heard of insomnia with MS? I have had the fatigue (before i got diagnosed) – but with this exacerbation I cannot sleep! Eh, guess its just another entry on the list.

  64. I have heard of people doing that but… hard for the guys haha. Insomnia? Yeah, very common, here is my little article: http://www.mattsms.com/2013/05/insomnia-how-to-treat-it-and-simple.html

  65. just kimmie says:

    Oh my gosh……I really just thought I was going crazy. I've been dealing with an enormous list of symptoms for about 2 months and my doctor just told me last week that we need to start thinking about MS. I just couldn't find anything anywhere about the pain I feel in my back and ribcage when I breathe and swallow food. This is the first I've seen about any of it. Thank you, so much. I could seriously cry….am crying. Please keep putting more information out there!

  66. Glad you found this then, we will keep in toutch on FB

  67. Lee Lee says:

    G'day matt, love yer blogging, really informative and helpful 🙂

    I've not been dx yet but my neuro says she is virtually sure it is MS, she is just illiminating anything else it "might" be as alot of things can mimic MS. Have had all the tests done, MRI with numerous lesions in the usual places, had spinal tap, mri on spine and numerous blood tests, ct's etc waiting on results of spinal tap for O banding, but like I said my neuro is pretty confident its MS.

    I mentioned how I had a couple of experiences with the MS 'HUG' on another site and was told it wasn't one, but the symptoms were exactly as others have put them so am pretty sure it was a HUG. I was woken up by my ones, and i am a very sound sleeper, with a very comfortable bed, no problems in the past with either. But a couple times I have woken in extreme pain right around my rib cage and back, that I thought I might not be able to breathe. Fortunatly I was able to but just moving by breathing was excruciating.
    I am glad for personal experience blogs like yours because I now know I am not a hypocondriac (spellcheck lol) and I'm not going crazy..pheww.
    I go back to my neuro hopefully this or next week and hope to get more answers and tell her of all the weird things that have been happening.
    Keep up the good work
    be well
    Lee =)

  68. Just remember a negative spinal tap/LP does not mean you don't have MS, it just means that there was no myelin protein in your CSF when they did the test. A lot of people have to do multiple LP's to finally get a positive. I was "lucky" and got it my first try!

  69. Hi Matt! My name is Kristen and I am one of the OT students from Loma Linda. I remember you mentioning the MS hug in class on Tuesday and I couldn't help thinking how painful that must feel! When I was little my grandpa would always gives us "bear hugs" since he lived far away and hadn't seen us in a long time. I remember the discomfort of those hugs from such a strong squeeze and feeling like I couldn't breathe! However, I can't imagine my body constantly feeling that way for minutes, hours, or even days at a time! Not to mention the possibility of feeling that you have to vomit. I was curious, do you still experience the "MS hug" from time to time and what is the most effective method that has worked for you to relieve it? You mentioned deep breathing and stretching works best for you, but has anything else seemed to help apart from medications?I am sure you don't use the warm bath or warm water technique, since you mentioned that heat exacerbates your symptoms more. Does Tysabri seem to help prevent this symptom from occurring? Thanks for your time!!

    • Hi Kristen! It is/was painful. I have not experianced it in for ever luckily. NOTHING really helped it, it was more a situation of getting comfortable. Since I started Tysabri a lot of my symptoms subsided and I think that this is one of them; that does not mean I can't experiance it again, just that it doesn't ever really pop up but may if I push myself into an exacerbation.

  70. Hi matt, Ive had ms for 13 years and Im just now experiencing my fitst "hug." Awful, awful, awful is all I can say about it. Luckily, Im in the hospital getting a steroid treatment so I had the doctors and nurses close. I don'f know how I would've reacted had I been alone with my 2 kids. So glad I found this article and I can put a name to whats happening to me. Cuz I have never heard of it before. So, thank you matt and all who commented. I feel like I can relax a little bit now!

  71. Yes, this seems to be somewhat common but most people don't know what it is! A name for an enemy helps a lot!

  72. Hi Matt. Great site, this info helps so much. I'm 29, from South Africa, and was informed around October last year that I "might" have MS after I complained of a very pronounced tremor in my dominant hand which lasted for about a month. My lumbar puncture showed 'signs' of MS and my MRI showed 4 lesions, so I've been placed on squarely on the 'maybe' bench until something significant happens. In the meantime I've had major fatigue, fallen over once or twice, lost control of my bladder numerous times, itched & scratched , had pins and needles and experienced what I believe is the MS hug many many times, for me it's all in the chest and it feels like someone is squeezing the life out of me! Yet, I'm still just a 'maybe' candidate so no meds for me…bummer.

  73. Hi! Wow, you would think they could still treat the symptoms and the cause later? But man, south Africa, you almost never hear of MS around the equator, but it obviously happens. Just hang in there because regaring the chest stuff, there are no meds that really help…. :/ God luck! Check back in when you get an answer, I am interested to know!

  74. Frannie says:

    I have this weird sensation underneath my ribs, almost a tightening band. It's not painful but REALLY annoying. Sometimes it feels like something is there pressing upwards underneath my ribs. I have had the classic HUG before and this is different. Is this MS or do I have colon cancer in addition to MS?

  75. Well, it's always a good idea to run it by your doctor if you suspect it MIGHT be something different as no one online can know exactly what you are feeling. BUT, I can tell you this; Sometimes I had it where I was in extreme pain and sometimes it was just an annoying pressure, BUT AGAIN, that was just me and that might not be you case, so I can't comfortably tell you yes or no until you get tested; I never want to tell someone its nothing when it COULD be SOMETHING you know?

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  77. Lolly says:

    Hello Matt,Great article thanks,I was diagnosed with MS 26 years ago and have had the hug for 15 years.Back then it was called banding.No drugs helped but found stretching helped and massage therapy does wonders.It also helps with spasticity. Though Insurance doesn't cover it and it is costly its worth any penny dug up.

  78. Lolly says:

    Hello Matt,great article thanks,I was diagnosed 26 years ago and started experiencing the hug 15 years ago called banding back then. No drugs helped but stretching did some and massage therapy does wonders,though insurance doesn't cover it, its worth any pennies you can dig up to do as often as possible.It also helps with spasticity.

  79. tnhealer13 says:

    Hi Matt, I am so glad i found your blog! I am not diagnosed yet but my PCP (primary care providor or regular doc) has been amazing and run the gamet with me. It wasn't until about a month ago when my left side at the T4 vertebrae when numb from spine to midline. Then when my leg when numb and started to lose mobility he ordered an mri. My mri of the thoracic spine showed some demylinization of some of the nerves and he promptly referred me to a nuerolgist who i am still waiting to hear from about an appointment. He said i needed a full spine mri with contrast and a brain mri with and without contrast. The last few weeks i have also been getting "hugged" and at times it was annoying but tonight i am in agony! I am on amytriptilyn, naproxen 500, flexiril and zantac 300 for my "fibro" symptoms which i am sure now are actually ms symptoms as does my doc. The hug and mobility issues are the worst. It feels like i am in a corset someone laced up so tight i can barely breathe or move. This feeling i have been having off and on for two years. I have had xrays, cts, ultrasounds and so much bloodwork i should be dead from all the blood they have taken. Heart and all organs are healthy minus two small hernias that came from a c section and my gallbladder surgery. I almost want to go to the er and see if they can give me something to make it stop so i can sleep. I walk with a cane for stabilization and it makes me sad because i am 29 and feeling like i am 60. I hate that my two year old daughter knows when i am in pain and will cuddle with me. As a mother that breaks my heart. Sorry to get emotional on you. This has been a rough two years. I just want to stop feeling like a hypochondriac and a crazy person and go back to my active and fun life. I am tired of feeling pained and ill.

    As to relief…my heating pad helps, showers make it worse and make me exhausted, theraputic grade essential oils help (i use doterra and young living), i use frankincense, clove and basil for pain and clove and lemon for detoxification. I also use a rub called deep blue and it cools and helps a bit.

    Thanks for letting me vent hope this helps others.

  80. Dave Bishop says:

    Now I know this feeling has a name. Usually it affects only my lower ribs in front. A couple of times it has affected my entire front ribs so that I feel like I'm suffocating. So far I've been able to breath and stretch through those. No real pain, though.

    Nine months ago, though, it started fairly normal in front, then it went around the back, very tight. It was painful to lean back into my chair. It felt even worse when I stood up after the meeting was finally over, so I walked down to the guard's desk. They took one look and called an ambulance. I felt terrible, it hurt so much. But only my ribs. Nowhere else.

    At the hospital, I found out I was actually having a heart attack (angina). I got four stents put in that day. My heart function was reduced to 1/4 to 1/3 normal because some of the muscles were that badly damaged. (There is NO heart disease on either side of my family. None. My ONLY risk factor was my weight. It was absolutely the last thing I expected.) Luckily, I was mostly back to normal after 4 months.

    So yeah, it really could be a heart problem.

  81. Dave Bishop says:

    Now I know this feeling has a name. Usually it affects only my lower ribs in front. A couple of times it has affected my entire front ribs so that I feel like I'm suffocating. So far I've been able to breath and stretch through those. No real pain, though.

    Nine months ago, though, it started fairly normal in front, then it went around the back, very tight. It was painful to lean back into my chair. It felt even worse when I stood up after the meeting was finally over, so I walked down to the guard's desk. They took one look and called an ambulance. I felt terrible, it hurt so much. But only my ribs. Nowhere else.

    At the hospital, I found out I was actually having a heart attack (angina). I got four stents put in that day. My heart function was reduced to 1/4 to 1/3 normal because some of the muscles were that badly damaged. (There is NO heart disease on either side of my family. None. My ONLY risk factor was my weight. It was absolutely the last thing I expected.) Luckily, I was mostly back to normal after 4 months.

    So yeah, it really could be a heart problem.

  82. I have a feeling like a band or strap across my back just above where my bra strap sits it's not painful but not sure what it is. I have fibro, should I be asking my Dr to check for MS?

  83. Leslie Pease says:

    Great post! I just had another one tonight. They started about 4 years after my MS diagnosis. For me heat makes it last and drag out longer. The two biggest helps for me is to try to stretch those muscles when it's happening, and the biggest help is ice. I don't know about you, but for me it often starts with heat in the middle of my back, it even feels like heat is emanating from my spinal cord going from the center of my spine up to my neck and brain stem, then the muscles tighten from the center, spreading around my ribs to the front and pulling back so hard it feels like my ribs will break apart in front by my sternum. My husband and stepson just know now that if I start hyperventilating or drop to the floor in tears and start stretching, to get my long ice packs out of the fridge and lay them from the top of my neck/spine down to below my rib cage. Cooling the spinal column ASAP seems to be the fastest, best way to arrest an attack. Then rest up and stay cool.

  84. Marti Arnold says:

    What a great page. So glad I found this. My question is: Can MS HUG be chronic?

  85. Edz Jonez says:

    MS Hug lol, more like a night in with Freddie Krueger. Had MS (More Shit) for 16 years and found the best way to beat a hug is to force air down (as if to create a burp). This expands the ribs and stops the intense pain. When i first ever got one i thought it was a heart attack but apparently it mimics them well. But the only way for me is to ride the storm lol Just having one…..excuse me lol

  86. Ginna says:

    Does anyone get it in their feet and lower legs?
    I do all the time!!

  87. Carla says:

    Hi Matt, I stumbled across your MS hug page by accident. I just had gallbladder surgery to remove my barely functional GB (9% function) that didn’t have any stones or irregularities. I have been feeling bad for two years and the tightness and pain around my rib cage, extending around to my back has been unbearable. Went to the ER thinking I was having a heart attack and then my primary doc suggested checking my GB.

    Now that my GB is out, I would have thought the tight girdling sensation would go away, but it’s just as bad as ever. I’m starting to think that perhaps I am having some neuro issues, given that the GB not functioning might really have been due to nerve impulses.

    I will say that I’ve had weird stuff going on for the past few years. Waking up in the middle of the night with numb arms and upper back, even though I wasn’t laying on my arms and cutting off blood supply or anything.

    Recently had a bout of vertigo, although it went along with a bad migraine I was having. I should note that I’ve had migraines since I was 10 yrs old (currently 43).

    I’ve also been having strange pulling sensations in my jaw and neck, and had the left side of my face go numbish (not completely). Along with this, there were stabbing pains in my left temple area that shot into my eye, cheek, and jaw. This lasted for about 5 days, and the skin in that area was super tender to the touch.

    I’m just trying to piece together some of this puzzle, and your MS hug information might be part of it. What do you think? Should I pursue seeing a neuro doc? I don’t want to seem like a hypochondriac, but I also am beginning to slide off the end of my rope.

    Your thoughts are appreciated, Carla

  88. Sarah Harris says:

    Hi. I am just wanting clarification from those who have experienced this ‘ms hug’. I’m nearly 37 and could be on the path to a ms diagnosis. I had this experience before but in my legs ‘restless legs’. More recently I’ve experienced the same kind of sensation in my stomach and I think chest area sometimes. Basically it’s annoying and you have to keep moving around and stretching to get momentary relief until it builds back up again. When it gets to the frustrating point that I’ve got to stretch or do something to make it go away, I take a few deep breaths though and I am not sure if that’s because it’s a part of what I’m experiencing or if I’m just soo frustrated with it that I breathe deeply. I described it as a restless legs sensation but in my stomach, then I came across some of these forums and sites discussing ms hug that I’d never heard of and I am now wondering if that’s what I’m actually experiencing. I have an appointment with a Neurologist in April 2017. Does this sound like ms hug or something else?

  89. Donna Charpiot says:

    Having a hard time getting my thoughts on here.
    Miraculasly found this blog. Where else can I get info on the hug?
    Almost every comment fits my story too.
    I’ve struggled for 20 years, with no one believing me. Was recently diagnosed with
    Fibromyalgia and given Cymbalta which seemed to help some with severity of the pain.

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