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Dealing With the "MS Hug"

April 28, 2016

The “MS hug” is a symptom of multiple sclerosis where you feel as if you have a tight band around your chest or ribs or it can be pressure on just one side of your torso. Some people find that it is painful to breathe.

It is important to question your physician about any type of chest pain you are having, unless you have already been diagnosed with the MS hug and your symptoms have not changed. The MS hug is a huge nuisance but is not considered dangerous.

Some patients experience a symptom similar to the MS hug, but in their hands or feet, where it feels as though they are constantly wearing gloves or boots. For others, the tight feeling is around the head. The feeling can range from annoying to very painful.

The MS hug feels different to each person. The best way to combat this symptom is to give your physician an accurate description of what you are feeling. In this way, they can understand what it feels like for you and any effect it is having on your everyday life. Some things a patient may say include:

  • Comes in short or long lasting bursts
  • Is constantly present
  • Is sharp or dull
  • Feels painful, aching, burning or tight
  • Goes away when tighter or looser clothes are put on or when temperature changes
  • Occurs concurrently with other symptoms
  • Is affecting my Mobility/Daily-life

As stated before each patient will have different reactions to this. Some may think tighter clothes trick the brain, while others feel more comfortable in looser attire. There are treatments available as well depending on where the pain is felt. If the feeling is due to spasms, the first drug to try would be baclofen. If it is nerve pain instead, amitriptyline, duloxetine, gabapentin or pregabalin (Lyrica) are tried first.