What is MS Hug & How is it Treated?

Multiple Sclerosis or MS is an unpredictable and chronic disease of the CNS or the central nervous system. People with multiple sclerosis also experience the MS hug, which is a collection of symptoms that is usually caused by spasms in the intercostal muscles (the muscles between your ribs). This article will talk more about the MS hug. So, read below and know what this MS hug is and how it is treated.

What is MS Hug & How is it Treated?

What is MS Hug?

Multiple sclerosis or MS is mainly characterized as a neurodegenerative autoimmune disease. This affects the CNS, primarily the white matter tissue, thus producing lesions or plaques in the brain and spinal cord.(1) Multiple Sclerosis is believed to be an autoimmune diseased condition when the body starts attacking itself. The target of the attacks in the condition of multiple sclerosis is myelin, which is a protective substance covering your nerves. Because of this damage to the myelin, a range of symptoms appears and they might range from double vision to slurred speech and mobility issues. There might also be neuropathic pain because of nerve damage. The ‘MS hug” is one type of neuropathic pain in the case of patients with MS.

The “MS Hug” is a collection of symptoms that are caused by spasms in the inter-coastal muscles or the muscles present between your ribs.

These muscles hold the ribs in place and aid you to move with ease and flexibility. The name “MS hug” gets its name from the way the pain wraps itself around the affected person’s body like a hug. These muscle spasms are also known as MS girdling or girdling.

One must keep in mind that this girdling, is not unique to MS. One might also experience the symptoms if you have other inflammatory conditions, like transverse myelitis, i.e. an inflammation of the spinal cord. An MS hug can also be triggered by an inflammation of the cartilage connecting the ribs, or Costochondritis.

Now, how exactly the MS hug feels like? Some patients might feel no pain but only feel pressure around the waist, neck, or torso. Some might experience a band of burning or tingling in the area. Other symptoms of the MS hug might include sharp, stabbing pain, or widespread aching. Patients might also experience sensations like cold or hot burning, crushing sensation, squeezing, and crawling feelings under the skin, while experiencing the MS hug.

One must know about some of the triggers of MS hug. Stress, heat, and fatigue are the situations in which your body might not be running efficiently. These are the situations, which are common triggers for the symptoms of Multiple sclerosis, including MS Hug. You should rest more, try to keep yourself cool, and find various ways to destress, if you are experiencing these symptoms.

How is MS Hug Treated?

Many cases of MS hug do not require any treatment and the pain would pass on its own. (2) But, anyone who has been diagnosed with Multiple sclerosis and experiences or recognizes the symptoms of MS hug might require visiting a doctor when they find it difficult to breathe, or when they have extremely severe pain. You should see your doctor if you experience the sensation of an MS hug for the first time. Your doctor would want to know if the pain started suddenly or gradually, how long the symptoms lasted, what activities make it worse or better, whether the symptoms prevented you from your normal activities or your sleep, and so on.

Below we will take a look at some of the ways that can be used to treat an MS hug.

Medications:

You might not require treatment. But, depending on the cause, your doctor would give you medications. You might be suggested over-the-counter medicines, such as pain relief cream, ibuprofen, or acetaminophen. Some other medicines may also be prescribed by your doctor.

These medicines might include, drugs for depression, like Amitriptyline and duloxetine for fighting nerve pain; drugs to stop convulsions and also halt the pain in the nerve, like gabapentin and pregabalin; and muscle relaxers like Baclofen.

If your doctor thinks that your symptoms signal a relapse, they might advise you to take steroids to help prevent it.

Coping Strategies:

Coping with certain unpredictable symptoms that impact your daily life can be intimidating and quite scary.

It has been reported by the UK MS Society that almost 1/3rd of patients with Multiple sclerosis will have some pain at different times.(3)

Although MS hug is not a life-threatening symptom of MS, it can be quite uncomfortable and can restrict your mobility and independence.

We would say that learning to cope with symptoms of MS hug might be a process of trial and error. You should talk with your doctor about any new pain symptoms that you experience and keep a track of the coping strategies that work appropriately for you. Talk to your doctor if the MS hug makes you feel blue or discouraged. There are support groups that can play a crucial role in helping people with Multiple sclerosis to cope with their symptoms and live a better life.

Ways To Treat MS Hug At Home:

Medications can be used to erase the pain in MS hug. However, many patients manage their MS pain by embracing some remedies at home. Some of the ways to treat MS hug at home are mentioned below.(4)

  • Apply direct pressure to the pain using the flat of your hand. This would help your nervous system translate the feelings of pain into pain-free pressure, and this would make you feel better.
  • Tightly wrap the affected area using an elastic bandage.
  • Practice some relaxation techniques, like deep breathing to expand your chest and to minimize spasms. You can also do meditation to ease any kind of discomfort during an episode.
  • Apply an ice pack that is wrapped in a thin towel directly to the area where you feel the pain.
  • Wear lightweight and loose-fitting clothing.
  • Get a massage to find some relaxation.
  • Move around or engage yourself in regular exercise.
  • Take a warm bath or apply a heating pad when you feel the pain. However, keep it as a note that heat in some patients makes the symptoms of MS hug worse.
  • Use topical analgesics.

Make sure that you are keeping a track of your coping strategies that work for you.

Final Words:

There are some triggers of MS hug that might make your symptoms worse. MS hug might show up, or get worse if you are suffering from flu, cold, or bladder infection; if you are fatigued or stressed out, or if you are too hot. So, you should be careful about the triggers of MS hug and try to treat yourself as fast as you can. Make sure that if you are experiencing difficulty in breathing or if the pain in your chest is severe or feels like a heart attack, you should call 911 or your local emergency number. Talk to your doctor about your multiple sclerosis and various symptoms that you experience due to MS, including MS hug. Your doctor might advise you for an MRI to look for other things, such as lung disease or gallbladder problems. We would also say that MS hug can also occur in people with other rib and spinal cord issues. So, if you have any such problem, you should tell about the same to your doctor, so that your doctor can diagnose you well and treat you accordingly.

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