Why is the 'MS Hug' called the 'MS Hug'

Perhaps the good Dr Geoff; Karen or anyone can pacify my inquisitive mind.

Why is the MS Hug or MS Girdle called such? I should imagine a spasm of the intercostal muscle can be caused by other complaints so why is it used with MS infront. I cannot find any other complaint that may cause this symptom.

If it only effects MS and it could be as high as 50% of PwMS get the ‘MS Hug’ this surely would be a very strong indication the person has MS and would alleviate the need for these people to have an LP. A very intrusive test that in the end only proves a possibility.



Thank you


Hi George,

It’s not a proper medical term, is it? Just what MSers themselves tend to call it.

I think, as you say, the correct term would be “spasm of the intercostal muscles”, but that’s a lot more of a mouthful than just “MS Hug”.

I’m pretty sure it wouldn’t be unique to MS (though I don’t know offhand what else might cause it), so it wouldn’t be a specific enough test for MS.

Besides, not everyone gets it, and those that do describe it in widely varying terms, so I don’t think a diagnostic indicator that relies solely on the patient’s subjective description would be very reliable. If it can’t be tested or measured, how do you know the patient is experiencing the “MS hug”, and not, say, angina, or indigestion?

It isn’t technically necessary to have an LP to diagnose MS anyway - I never did. NICE guidelines say it should only be used where other evidence is inconclusive. It’s odd how most neuros still seem to treat it as routine in all cases, and not only where there’s particular difficulty or ambiguity.

True, I had to wait longer to amass enough evidence by other means. Maybe most patients wouldn’t be happy with that? But I preferred a wait to a lumbar puncture, anyway. It was only a six month wait, as it turned out. Which may have seemed like an age at the time, but in the context of a disease I’d probably had for years already, and WILL have all my life, it’s not very long.


Hi George, I dont get the MS hug.....but then my dx is still in doubt, so thats no help for me to get a dx.

I do, however, get a chest discomfort, which was dx`d as acid reflux.

Other than that my tight chest is always relieved by removing my bra!!! As a fella, that won`t help you, eh? LOL!

luv Pollx

I think I had it before I was diagnosed - as a teenager, I used to suffer with a “tight chest” a lot - the GP diagnosed asthma - I’ve never ever had an asthma attack although my peak flow test has been worryingly low at times, this stopped in my early 20s. Also, just before I was diagnosed, it came back, accompanied by a fluttery feeling in my chest (I was about 27 at the time) - they did an ECG, found nothing, diagnosed an indigestion thing and prescribed Gaviscon. I’ve had it a few times since diagnosis, age 28, but just put it down to the weird and wonderful world of MS symptoms, and it passes.

My diagnosis was made from an MRI (the inside of my head was mostly normal), an LP, and my history. I think that the Hug should be taken into consideration, but it can’t be a stand alone MS indicator, and it would be difficult to use it if it has been put down to other things.

Luisa x

Sorry George, I have no idea! I bet it exists in other conditions and is called something different though. (It’s caused by spinal cord lesion(s) and there are plenty of things that can damage the cord apart from MS.)

Interesting question!

Karen x

Hi George

I presume its because it feels like you’re being squeezed a bit like a hug would feel when its overpowering. It takes your breathe away - unfortunately I’ve had this many times and its very frightening (well at least for me as I can’t breathe enough oxygen in). It’s put me in hospital about 4 times but those are the really bad ones the others I can manage a bit better - I guess the best way I could discribe it woukd be a bit like having asthma (but I’m not asthmatic). Other people may have other symptoms but this is how it affects me.

;-o Mary