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MS Hugs and more spastic issues

By Mary Pettigrew

Let’s talk about spasticity and the “MS hug” for a bit. I used to liken the “hug” as a tight corset, wrapped round the torso. Think of that scene from the film, “Gone With The Wind” when Scarlett O’Hara was being pulled tightly into her corset before attending a barbeque. Well, that’s the way it used to feel for me until a few years ago when my MS progression changed. This description has changed dramatically in my case.

During the past year or so, I’ve noticed this “hug” to take on a different feeling. This is more frequent, painful, and chronically debilitating. I’ve noticed the phenomenon tends to happen most often when I’m sitting or bending over. Nowadays, it feels like a hand is gripping my torso, reaching inside and grabbing me underneath my ribcage. Its grasp tightens and twists my muscles and my organs into such a painful spasm to the point I am reduced to tears sometimes. Last month was the worst I’ve experienced with the MS hug spastic episodes. It even reached the point to where my muscles in, under, and around my ribcage were so affected they were bruised and painful to the touch. 

I realize I have been spending too much time sitting. Whether in a chair or sitting up in bed too long, this is a habit I must work on to change for a variety of reasons. When the spasm hits, the only relief I can find is to stand up (or lean back) – anything to stretch my torso out of its crunched over position into an elongated way of pulling of my muscles out of this crippling pain. When I say crippling pain, I mean tear-jerking, exhausting pain!

Other issues pertaining to spasticity have affected my calves, feet, neck, hands, etc. As the weather changes, I notice the cold weather can cause more problems. I hate wearing socks, but in the winter, I do. I also wear gloves – particularly the mittens or “sweater” type gloves which allow you to use your iPhone or other touch related devices. 

I do take baclofen as needed, but I’ve found it can bring about odd dreams. I’m curious if others have also experienced this same side effect or if it’s just me. My neurologist suggested Ibuprofen, yet more NSAIDS tend to cause more gastrointestinal issues and I certainly don’t need those as I have IBS/D in and of itself. I’ve found the more stretching I can do the better. I also use a heating pad when spasticity gets bad. I’ve also used some topicals such as Theraworks, Biofreeze, CBD ointments and the like. However, I’ve found the most helpful relief (although sometimes temporary) is stretching and massage. My friend, Elizabeth Nathraj has posted an interesting video about what she does for some relief from her MS hug issues. Here is a link for more information: 

Myofascial release at youtube.com/watch?v=5Li8QnH4Q_o&feature=youtu.be

Spasticity comes in all forms and fashions. The more we progress with our MS, the more likely we may find ourselves dealing with spasticity. Sometimes meds can be helpful, but oftentimes, “homeopathic” remedies can also be of great help. Talk to your doctor about what might be a good fit for you.