The feelings of chest constriction certainly sound like what many MSers refer to colloquially as “The Hug” (not actually a medical term). It’s a spasm of the tiny muscles (intercostal muscles) between the ribs, so can certainly give the sensation that breathing in is difficult or obstructed, as if in a tight corset, as the natural expansion of the ribcage is being impeded.
I’m not sure whether the swallowing problems are an unrelated symptom (but still with the same underlying cause of a CNS issue - whether MS or something else).
I’ve been diagnosed just under five years, and have just lately begun to experience some swallowing problems.
I also very occasionally get what I interpret as “The Hug”, which for me, almost always strikes at night, and feels like pain or pressure under the breastbone. It usually lasts only a couple of hours, and is gone by morning. Prescribed muscle relaxants (Baclofen, diazepam) have reduced both frequency and severity, which is why I’m reasonably confident it’s muscular and to do with MS, rather than anything more sinister.
I feel that for me personally (it may not be the same for you) the chest pain and the feeling of food “sticking” on the way down are two different problems, as I’ve not noticed the timing is linked in any way. I only get the hug very occasionally, and in fact feel I’ve not had it since the swallowing issue began, so don’t think they’re part of the same thing (though both may be MS-related).
Like you, I’ve wondered if there was a problem with GERD, as my throat seems to feel constantly irritated, with a hoarse voice and tickly cough, as well as the feeling food is not always clearing my gullet properly.
My GP (two of them in fact, as I’ve been about it more than once) did not think it is the result of an infection, and did agree with me that acid reflux was a possible cause, and that antacids were a reasonable course of action, so I’ve been taking Gaviscon Advance, at nearly £9 a bottle!
I was offered a referral to ENT for as endoscopy, but as I am verging on hospital phobic (a bit unfortunate for someone with chronic illness), and (like you) find stress and anxiety makes things worse, it’s a bit of a toss-up whether the stress of having to go would outweigh any revelations. Because I have quite a long history (well pre-dating diagnosis) of a troublesome throat, the doctor thought it was most unlikely to be anything dangerous (i.e. if it was a malignancy, I wouldn’t still be as ‘OK’ as I am all this time), so she considered it would be an elective referral - i.e. “We can try to find out more if you want”, rather than something she would recommend as essential. So given my high levels of anxiety about the hospital, you won’t be surprised that saying I could have the investigation “if I want”, but it wouldn’t be dangerous not to, has not left me in a rush to sign up! So far, all doctors have been very hesitant about linking it to MS, as it may turn out to be something I’m just prone to, that has nothing to do with it.
However, I have read that in some cases, MS can result in problems with the little valve (the sphincter) that prevents stomach acid escaping back up into the oesophagus. This is pure conjecture on my part - it’s never been proved that it is that with me, or it isn’t. Of course, acid reflux is a very common condition in the population at large, so even if I did have it, it wouldn’t necessarily follow that it had anything to do with MS. It could be just an unrelated condition that I’ve been “lucky” enough to get as well.
I’m fairly resigned to it that I may never know - these links are difficult to prove for certain, and MS is certainly no protection against having other stuff anyway, unfortunately.