A tightness around the rib cage and back could be an MS Hug.

An MS Hug is not, in itself, dangerous however, any unexplained chest pain should be taken seriously.

My first experience of MS Hug was an annoyance. It only occurred when I was reaching to a high shelf to remove something from the cupboard.

I have multiple sclerosis, so I am well used to random aches and pains and peculiar sensations.

Multiple Sclerosis presents many possible symptoms and you should not automatically assume that the presence of a new symptom is a sign of increased disease activity in MS.

For this reason, my first experience of tightness in the chest was not immediately blamed on the ubiquitous MS.

MS Society MS Hug
MS Hug
Image courtesy of MS Society

Could be an MS Hug

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I knew there were many reasons that could cause my chest pain. I could have pulled a muscle, I could have cracked a rib or I could be having a mild heart attack.

And yes, in the past I have pulled many muscles and I java cracked a rib twice. But, that was during my younger years when I was active in many sporting activities.

However, these were all unlikely causes given my current leisurely, sedentary lifestyle. So, it could be an MS Hug.

At this stage, I had not heard about a condition called MS Hug.

But, MS Society reports that MS Hug is an uncomfortable, sometimes painful, tightening across the stomach or chest. It can be difficult to describe and it can be frightening, evoking misplaced worries about heart attacks.

The pain and discomfort can circumscribe the stomach or chest, giving rise to the expression of girdling. The expression girdling come from a time when people wore a corset or girdle to flatten their stomachs.

MS Constriction Lesion

Multiple Sclerosis is caused by damage to the Central Nervous System (CNS) in the brain or the spine.

Lhermitte’s Sign is evidence of a cervical cord lesion brought about by an MS plaque. And it can be possible for a thoracic symptom to produce a sensory band or MS Hug.

Therefore, MS Hug can be caused by a spinal lesion on the cervical cord.

MS Hug Frequency

It is very difficult to predict how or when MS disease activity is likely to escalate and bring on new symptoms.

Similarly, it is impossible to determine how long an MS Hug will last or how often it will appear.

Your chest pain may last for only a few seconds. What I would describe as an annoying twinge.

But, your MS Hug could last for days or months and become a constant debilitation.

However, there are steps you can take to try and relieve the pain of these constant cramps.

How to lessen the MS Hug

There are a number of simple things you can try to alleviate the spasms of MS Hug. But, these will not work for everyone.

  1. Apply a warm compress (If you don’t suffer from Uhthoff Symptom)
  2. Ensure you are well hydrated.
  3. Eat healthy food.
  4. Have a massage
  5. Stay Rested
  6. Employ breathing techniques
  7. Wear supportive clothing (may actually exacerbate the problem)

I usually find that sitting quietly in a room, by myself, is enough to ease the pain.

MS Hug fibromyalgia

Fibromyalgia shares many symptoms with multiple sclerosis (MS). But, as many as 1 in 5 people are diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis when they, in fact, have another neurological condition.

Symptoms like joint and muscle pain, numbness and tingling in the arms, hands and legs, failing memory and fatigue are all shared by multiple sclerosis and fibromyalgia. And like Multiple Sclerosis, fibromyalgia is more common in females than male.

However, unlike MS, Fibromyalgia does not produce brain lesions that can show up in an MRI.

MS Mimickers

Conditions Mistaken for MS or MS Hug
MS Mimickers
Image courtesy of Everyday Health
  1. Lyme Disease
  2. Syphilis
  3. Lupus
  4. Sjogren’s syndrome
  5. Sarcoidosis
  6. Fibromyalgia
  7. Transverse Myelitis

Multiple Sclerosis seldom comes along alone. As many as 15% of MSers will have at least one other autoimmune disease in addition to their MS.

Can you have an MS Girdle without having MS

A tight, sometimes painful, constriction around the upper torso is called MS Hug. This tightness could be around the waist or even as high as the neck or jaw. This happens when the intercostal muscles go into spasm. The intercostal muscles are tiny muscles located between the ribs. The intercostal muscles help holw the fibs in place, while allowing for flexibility and movement.

Like all MS symptoms, the severity of the symptoms varies from person to person. Some describe the sensation as a tightness, while some have a tickling or a tingling and, other have dull, sharp or burning sensation.

Occasionally, the constriction can be so severe that breathing is difficult. And can be likened to a panic attack or even a heart attack. These symptoms can occur as a result of stress, fatigue or an increase in core body temperature.

An MS Hug is not specific not to Multiple Sclerosis and can happen with other conditions where the spinal cord can become inflamed like in transverse myelitis.

Why does MS Banding feel like a heart attack?

It is no surprise that an MS Hug has the poor MSer in a panic worrying that they may be having a heart attack.

MS Hug and a Heart Attack can both cause tightness and pain across the chest. The American Heart Association tells us that heart attack also has symptoms of pain in the upper limbs, shortness of breath, cold sweats and nausea.

However, if you have any doubts, you must consult a doctor to verify the cause of your discomfort.

Give me a Hug but, not an MS Hug

An MS Hug is not a cosy cuddle by the fire. An MS Hug is the name given to a tight constriction across the chest.

The sensation can appear as low in the torso as the waist or, it could be a pain in the neck! MS Hug can feel like strangulation when the tightness occurs around the neck or lower jaw.

An MS Hug is the result of spasm in the intercostal muscles. These are tint muscles located between the ribs. The intercostal muscles keep the ribs in place, while still allowing flexibility and movement.

Not all MS Hugs are equal. Some people experience construction or pressure in the chest. Whereas, siome people describe a tickling or tingling feeling. It could be felt as a sharp, dull or burning pain.

The sensation may be specific to the chest, or it might spread throughout the torso.

On very rare occasions, the constriction is so severe that it will impede breathing. These sensations are also described by people having a panic attack or, a heart attack.

In line with other MS symptoms, stress, fatigue or an increase in body temperature can trigger an MD Hug.

This tightness of the chest may last for only a few seconds but, it could last for much longer.

However, the MS Hug is not specific to MS. Any form of spinal injury, like transverse myelitis can cause similar sensations.

You should always check with your medical practitioner as an MS Hug may not be what you are experiencing. You need to rule out heart or gallbladder problems. And rule out lung disease, gastro-intestinal disorders or inflammation of the cartilage between the ribs.

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References

How to get rid of the cramps
Thoracic Flexio provokes pain
How long does this symptom last?
The word from the MS Society
Is this a condition specific to MS?
16 Conditions commonly mistaken for Multiple Sclerosis
Diseases that can mimic Multiple Sclerosis
MS Focus Magazine

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Smooth Muscle Operation with Multiple Sclerosis
How to handle the guilt of Chronic Fatigue in MS
Hearing Loss caused by Multiple Sclerosis

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Stephen Walker is a blogger who has been living with Multiple Sclerosis or MS since 1994. He devotes a lot of time to researching this dreadful autoimmune disease, looking for answers and possible treatments.

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