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A Hug – But Not As We Know It!

We all love hugs don’t we? On our lowest days a hug from a loved one is comforting, special and reminds us that love, actually is all around us.

To an outsider THE MS HUG sounds like something warm and fuzzy – but they of course haven’t experienced it!

The MS Hug is a rotten little bugger – it sneaks up behind you and takes you by surprise as it wraps its spiky arms around your midsection and that sharp intake of breath you take only tightens its grip. By the way, which sadistically cruel bastard thought THAT would be a good name for something that can feel like a bloody boa constrictor squeezing the life out of you?!

The MS hug is quite a common symptom of MS but is not known to lesser mortals.

Here’s the best way I can describe it…It’s an intensely tight feeling, like something is clasping around your chest but it can also grab you around your hand, foot or worst of all, your head. It squeezes so tight around the chest that it’s really difficult to breathe. Sometimes, it hugs you so bloody hard and will not let go not matter how hard you struggle.

I’m no neuro but here’s why…

As with everything associated with MS, it’s all down to nerve damage.The feeling of tightness around your chest can be due to spasms in the intercostal muscles between your ribs (ooh get me!). We also get feelings of mind blowing aching, stabbing, crawling electricity and intense pins and needles. An MS hug is classed medically as a “kind of pain”. Oh, ha bloody ha – a kind of pain, ffs!

Let me tell you something – I’ve had three children and kidney stones and MS pain trumps these, hands down!

The first time it happens its a tightening, cramping feeling, unlike anything you’ve felt before. Your mind goes into overdrive and you say to yourself “FFS what it wrong with me now?!” Is it part of MS, or something much bigger?

MS warriors describe it as similar to wearing an old fashioned girdle that’s about 8 sizes to small, except that the tightness is from the inside, not the outside. I have never worn a girdle, but if THIS is what it feels like, I will most definitely give that garment a wide berth!

When I called my specialist nurse in a panic and told her about my unwanted prickly fumble from my constant companion, MS, she laughed a little, which I may add, I found very rude –rotten b*tch! (she’s actually lovely by the way) She assured me that my appendix wasn’t about to burst, it wasn’t a hernia, and it wasn’t the early stages of a heart attack –PHEW!

How to deal with the MS Hug

I’m learning to “manage” the pain and other “delights” that are part and parcel of the MS Hug. Everyone has their own way of dealing with it but here are a few examples:

Deep Breathing

Breathe in deeply through your nose and out through your mouth as if you are blowing your cup of tea prior to your first sip. I tell my family to do this and their standard reply is “blah blah doesn’t work for everything.” I beg to differ!

Drink something warm

Some people think this can help relax your tightening muscles a bit. It really is true a cup of tea heals all!

Take a Warm Bath

This is my first port of call for anything that makes me feel like shit, even at 4am. Bath, bubble and lavender oil Epsom salts will loosen that unwanted hug, if only for a little while!

Wear Loose Clothes

No, I’m not trying to teach you to suck eggs but this is obvious if you feel constricted but still worth mentioning


Though I have never tried this for The Hug, some people say it actually helps them relax, I prefer my ever faithful electric blanket!

Mind Over Matter

Easier said than done I hear you cry, definitely not for me. I think it’s a load of bollocks, but some people believe they can think their pain away – yeah right. Good luck with that one!

I’ve had a few really “bad hug” days. So if you’ve got any more tips on how to handle the dreaded MS hug, I’d love to hear them

I’m now going for a proper hug from MFH! xx

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.


  • MSWarrior2
    2 years ago

    Very well expressed! I’m a “meditate before medicate” practitioner, and maybe it’s easier for me because I’ve been meditating for over 30 years. And the first to admit that sometimes my symptoms are so bad I can’t concentrate enough to meditate or that meditation just isn’t cutting it. On those days, I’ve found Alprazolam (Xanax) works. Flexeril might too, but I didn’t want to add another drug to my pharmacopeia if I already had something on hand that works. And I usually only take Alprazolam a few times the week before my Tysabri infusion when my anxiety kicks into high gear and meditation doesn’t suppress it. I found out that that’s pretty common with people on Tysabri. And actually a lot of the MS symptoms worsen that week before. I hope you find something that works for you and good luck

  • B.L.
    2 years ago

    Hi! I absolutely loved your story about the dreaded MS hug! You Nailed it girl! I laughed and cried while reading your story! I especially loved the part about how lovely the Drs office “nurses ” can be when you call frantically bc you get a new weird symptom and are scared to death and they basically laugh at you! Mine has more of the “blame the patient” attitude. Don’t they expect us that deal with pain every second of the day to be a little bit cranky sometimes. Nope! They expect us to be full of sugar all the time! lol!
    I wish I knew a way to help you with this awful hug , but I really don’t know how to get rid of my own. Btw? Do you get the Hug more often around Spring/Summer. I just know that I seem to. All that I do know is if I could give you a real honest to God HUG, I would! I can only empathize as deeply as I can and let you know that you’re not alone in this awful disease ! Support is such a great help; even from strangers! I think I get better support from ppl that don’t know me anyway! Lol!
    Anyway, I just wanted you to know that I enjoyed reading your story and I honestly wish I knew the answers to help with your pain as well as everyone I’ve “met” while on this journey.

  • I'm a rich tea in a hobnob world author
    2 years ago

    Thank you for your lovely comments. x

  • KarenLoftus
    2 years ago

    Thanks for sharing your perspective and keeping your humour about it. We laugh til we cry.

    This article just came up on my FB Mon 8 May. On Fri 5 May I spent 4 hours in ER with a one-sided hug – left ribs front and back, and a sharp pain in my right sternum like I was being attacked with a claw hammer. Ive had many rib, back and waist hugs hugs before, but never anything like this! X-rays and C-T scan showed organs all good, no clots, lung, bronchitis, etc. in short, MS is mixing it up.

    The claw hammer stopped about 3 a.m. Sun and the lopsided hug is slowly easing off. I’m seeing my MS NEurologist 2 June so I’ll report it then. I’ve got my brain MRI on 16 May so it’ll be interesting to see if that shows anything.

    Can’t say I’m not kept kept on my toes!

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