Ask the Expert– MS Hug

Featuring Barry A. Hendin, MD
MSAA’s Chief Medical Officer

Headshot of doctor Barry Hendin, chief medical officer for MSAA
Barry Hendin, MD

Question: In MS, what would cause a very tight and sometimes painful squeezing around the body, or elsewhere, even in the hands or feet? 

Answer: These symptoms typically describe an “MS hug,” and when experiencing it for the first time, it can be both uncomfortable and frightening. It is caused by inflammation or injury to the nerves of the central nervous system, which interrupts nerve impulses and sends mixed signals to the body and its muscles. Muscle spasms around the ribs can also cause these uncomfortable sensations. Triggers that cause one’s MS symptoms to temporarily worsen may also trigger an MS hug – such as overheating, stress, fatigue, and illness or infection. 

People can experience MS hugs differently, and while the sensation of tightness is commonly experienced in the chest or abdomen, it can affect any part of the body. With the first episode, it’s important to contact your clinician to rule out other causes. If the initial symptoms are severe, individuals should seek immediate medical assistance. When the episodes are persistent or painful, medications such as baclofen, amitriptyline, or gabapentin may be tried, but for most people, medication won’t be needed. 

Certain “home remedies” are helpful to some individuals, such as wearing loose clothing (others may find that wearing tight clothing is helpful), applying heat or taking a warm bath, or using relaxation techniques. Keeping a healthy lifestyle through a good diet, adequate rest, avoiding stress, and staying cool, may help to minimize the risk of an MS hug. For more information, please visit this section of MSAA’s website at mymsaa.org/ms-hug

Barry A. Hendin, MD, is a neurologist and Director of the Arizona Integrated Neurology MS Center. He is also Director of the Multiple Sclerosis Clinic at Banner University Medical Center and Clinical Professor of Neurology at the University of Arizona Medical School. 

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About MSAA

The Multiple Sclerosis Association of America (MSAA) is a national nonprofit organization and leading resource for the entire MS community, improving lives today through vital services and support. MSAA provides free programs and services, such as: a Helpline with trained specialists; award-winning publications, including, The Motivator; MSAA’s nationally recognized website, featuring educational videos, webinars, and research updates; a mobile phone app, My MS Manager™; safety and mobility equipment products; cooling accessories for heat-sensitive individuals; MRI funding; My MSAA Community, a peer-to-peer online support forum; MS Conversations blog; a clinical trial search tool; podcasts; and more. For additional information, please visit www.mymsaa.org or call (800) 532-7667.

Comments

  • Deana Bernstein says:

    What is a good medication to take that treats both MS and Crone’s?

    • Emily says:

      Hi, thank you for your comment. It would be best to reach out to your doctor and ask what drug would work best. Please remember that you can always reach out to our helpline at (800) 532-7667

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