Can multiple sclerosis affect breathing

Can multiple sclerosis affect breathing?

MSers will experience many symptoms in varying degrees, but thankfully the condition doesn’t impact breathing as much in comparison to other symptoms it can cause.

In this blog we’ll outline how breathing can be affected by multiple sclerosis, as well as what you can do to help keep your breathing as functional as possible.

MS won’t directly affect breathing

You’ll be glad to know that multiple sclerosis (MS) doesn’t directly affect your breathing. The disease doesn’t interfere with the capabilities of the body’s automatic functions (the autonomic nervous system) which of course includes breathing.

However, there are other factors that can impact breathing on MS patients.

Things that can contribute to breathing difficulties


The MS Hug

This is a sensory symptom caused by MS. Patients often compare this sensation to a tight elastic band around the ribs or torso, which is of course painful and uncomfortable – giving it the name ‘MS Hug’.

A tight feeling around the upper part of the body will of course impact your overall wellbeing and potentially make breathing more uncomfortable. Some people find that certain medications and even tight-fitting clothes can make a positive difference to this symptom.

You can learn more about sensory symptoms of MS by reading our dedicated Choices booklet.

Loss of muscle strength and endurance

This is something caused by MS in general, but just like any other part of the body, the muscles used for drawing in breath can be affected. Muscles located in the chest and abdomen are responsible for this action and if affected ultimately make it harder to breathe. In addition, you’ll need more energy thanks to weaker muscles so you may begin to feel more tired throughout the day.

Depending on the types of MS you have, you might find that your breathing becomes worse gradually or in relapses.

Certain medications

Things such as muscle relaxants can be prescribed to MS patients, which can of course be beneficial. On the other hand, if you already have loss of muscle strength it can make your breathing even more laboured which will of course further impact your quality of life.

Other illnesses

Having MS in conjunction to other illnesses that affect lung capacity, pneumonia being a big one, can also affect your breathing. It’s far easier said than done but be as cautious as possible to not pick up infections and viruses that could influence your breathing ability.

What respiratory problems can lead to

Speech and swallowing issues

With more difficult breathing comes less air of course, and ultimately it would impact your speech and swallowing capabilities. Taking in air with said issues can make these things harder so it is important to practice techniques to help in communicating.

Difficulties exercising

You might find something like a brisk walk has become more difficult thanks to breathing issues, but this shouldn’t stop you from exercising. Taking breaks whilst on a walk or more seated alternatives to exercise are still good ways of working those muscles!

Poor sleep

Breathing issues can impact the levels of oxygen in the blood, and a lack of it can make you feel even more tired than usual. In addition, breathing difficulties can also impact how much sleep you get – so when all of these factors are mixed together you may very well begin to feel far more fatigued.

Increased risk of chest infections

Not being able to cough as well can increase and encourage the number of tiny food particles and excess products like mucus to sit on your chest. These higher volumes can influence bacteria to breed and encourage the development of chest infections.

What you can do now

If you are an MSer reading this and are experiencing problems with breathing suddenly then you must visit a medical professional immediately! Make sure that you receive the medical attention you need now.

The best thing that you can do to help with breathing difficulties mentioned in this blog is to not stop working your muscles. Make sure to stretch and exercise, in particular the top part of your body to help with efficient breathing.

If you’re struggling to know where to begin with exercise, then why not take a look at what exercise sessions we have on our portal? From seated yoga to guided meditation sessions, we’re sure that you’d gain a lot of value from them and hopefully breathe easier!