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 bitch! (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
  • Massage– 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




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