My finger hurts.

The tip of my middle finger on my right hand feels like it is asleep. Its felt like this since last night. What caused it? I’ll tell you.

Edited on June 27th 2007: So if you are reading this it’s probably because the tip of your finger has been numb for a long period of time. Quite possibly caused by carrying numerous bags of groceries. So, let me cut to the chase…you’ll be fine. My finger got better after a couple of weeks and most people recover even faster.

Now you can read the rest of my story or read the comments for other people who have had similar problems.

I was in my nearby grocery store around 10pm last night when the lady in front of me was begging the cashier to find someone to deliver her 4 bags of groceries to her door. They explained that their delivery service is only until 9, and they couldn’t find anyone to send. I stood there listening and thought about helping her. Then I thought about how I failed to get a pretty good job today and that I could use the karma.

I wish I had just wanted to do it right off the bat, and didn’t need to bribe myself into doing it, but I’ve been told that it doesn’t matter as long as I am doing the right thing. So let’s hope that is right.

So I offer to help her carry her groceries. She says they are really heavy. I tell her I can handle them. (It doesn’t look like much). The she glances at my groceries and says I already have such heavy stuff to carry. My groceries are very light. Bread. Cheese. Meat. And one bottle of soda. That is it. Oh, and some Ritz crackers. I tell her its less then I usually carry. So she agrees to let me help. And then she immediately realizes that she can’t find her child and goes to look for him. I grab her bags and follow.

The kid has gone outside and is a block away as she calls him to come back. He finally does and runs right past us in the other direction. This is the direction of her place so she doesn’t seem as concerned. So we start walking. Its only a 4-5 block walk, but she walks so slow it took us over 15 minutes. Plus she had to keep stopping to call her child back with exclamations like “Stay near me or you are going to get grabbed!”

As we neared her place she got a phone call from her husband. I couldn’t understand what she said to him, but it was brief and the phrase “American” was uttered. Then she hung up and said to me that she has seen me before – doing laundry. And she pointed at the laundromat we were passing. This was not my laundromat and I never do laundry (I use the drop off service). So I told her that it wasn’t me. We then talked about living in Astoria until her husband called a second time.

Anyway, we finally reach her place…she has me set the groceries on the stoop. And I head home. This is when I notice my finger is numb. I expected it to go away (assuming some circulation got cut from holding numerous bags of groceries. But here I am 16 hours later and it is still bothering me.

Stupid Karma.

Edited on Jukly 4th 2014: Happy Birthday America! I am getting too much spam lately. Akismet (the software that WordPress uses to block spam) isn’t catching a lot of it. So I am turning off comments for now. Sorry! Read all the old comments to see all the people who were helped by this random post.

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  1. Wendy@AR
    Posted 2/28/2012 at 11:48 am | Permalink

    Well if anyone wished they could heal faster (and without side-effects), you could probably try putting on a thumb brace or finger brace. It helps with recovery and put the hurt fingers to rest :-)

  2. Andy
    Posted 3/6/2012 at 7:43 pm | Permalink

    I have had a similar issue with the outside edge of my little finger for over three weeks now. It’s gone through various phases of numbness and tingling but it is clearly not right. Although I didn’t immediately connect it to carrying heavy shopping, looking back I’m sure it was the cause. I’d been carrying several heavy plastic bags in my left hand the day before i noticed the numbness and recall looking at my hand when I got home from the supermarket and thinking ‘Jesus, they don’t look like my fingers’. They did thankfully return to their normal shape after only a few minutes but even now, after 3 weeks, my little finger is still numb and I get a small shocks pass up my finger when i tap the affected area. On a positive note it has been improving very slowly and hopefully it’ll be back to normal in another week or two. Thanks for sharing your experience and let’s all look after those little fingers because it’s a jungle out there.

  3. David (Ireland)
    Posted 3/18/2012 at 5:35 pm | Permalink

    Boy was I glad to find this blog today. I have had sore hands, numb and tingling fingers, sore wrists as well as burning hand tendons for the last two to three weeks, so much so that I am typing this with the tip of a pen, one letter at a time as I can’t type normally because of the discomfort. I have also had shoulder pain. I had wondered if it could have been caused by having carried a very heavy shopping bag using alternating hands and now that I have found this blog I am certain that this is indeed the reason. There is a little improvement today and I am relieved that it may recover. A big thank you to you KevHines – I am happier and much more positive today because of your blog.

  4. Kevhines
    Posted 3/19/2012 at 12:46 am | Permalink

    David – your problem definitely sounds more severe then most cases on this thread (if only because it’s your entire arm and shoulder having pain) – I might go to a doctor if you can. Definitely if it doesn’t start improving soon I’d go.
    Let me know how it works out.

  5. mike
    Posted 3/29/2012 at 7:31 am | Permalink

    It’s good to know that I dont have to suffer alone anymore……I was starting to think it might drop off….

  6. henry
    Posted 4/21/2012 at 2:40 am | Permalink

    I smashed my middle finger between a chain and a turning wheel and now my finger is numb from my knuckle to the tip on the right side of my finger. What should I do.

  7. Dan
    Posted 6/10/2012 at 5:01 pm | Permalink

    My situation is similar, but different. That is, while the affected area is generally the same and I suspected it was caused by GBS, the symptom is the opposite. Rather than numbness, I have pain. The pain is only when I try to fully bend my middle right finger and, to a lesser extent, the right ring finger.

    Duration: about a month now. I can’t tell that there’s been much improvement really. What can I do for it? I’ve tried soaking the right hand in Epsom salts a couple times and while that feels good, it seems to be a short-term help.

    I’ve wondered if this could be due to something else – arthritis? But why would it be just on those particular joints? I’m 42, btw.

  8. Kevhines
    Posted 6/10/2012 at 9:15 pm | Permalink

    Dan, the very fact that you are feeling pain and not numbness would worry me. I’d go see a doctor. It might heal over time, but nothing on this page will relate to what you are feeling. Everyone who recovered from GBS had numbness that did slowly (very slowly in some cases) improve – while you are showing none of that.
    I hope it’s nothing too serious (I suspect it’s not) but I’d go see a real non-internet expert.

  9. AlRegal
    Posted 6/21/2012 at 11:51 pm | Permalink

    7 years after this blog was posted it’s still reassuring people! Today I fell victim to this very same numbness in my middle finger from carrying groceries home for about 15 minutes and standing waiting with them in my hands for another 10-15, having been locked out. After about 30 minutes I’d say about half of the feeling came back. Since then (nearly 4 hours) it’s been the same numbness. I was incredibly worried because I’m a professional guitar player and couldn’t imagine having to relearn what I’ve been doing for 11 years (or, God forbid, give it up)! Thank you thank you thank you!

  10. Edgar
    Posted 6/22/2012 at 1:09 am | Permalink

    This just happened to me a couple of hours ago. I was carrying groceries from my car up to my apartment and my middle finger tip on my left hand went numb. I was watching the Heat win their championship, thinking what in the world is going on with my finger. Funny how it happened on the same day as the previous post.

  11. Tyra
    Posted 8/15/2012 at 3:38 pm | Permalink

    2 days ago I carried my groceries to my apartment and my middle finger has been numb ever since. Initially I injured it while moving a box a week prior, but it was feeling about 80% better. I was wondering should I go to the doctor so i decided to search online. First I searched for info about pinched nerve in the finger then numb fingertip. I didn’t really see what I was looking for, therefore, I decided to do a search including “carrying grocery bags”. I found this blog which was very helpful. Since I’d hurt the side of my finger a week prior I’ll wait another week and if it isn’t showing signs of improving I’ll go get it checked.

  12. neillyd
    Posted 10/21/2012 at 6:36 am | Permalink

    Seems weird to post on a thread that’s 7 years old, but hey, if it helps anyone!

    My last post here was on Feb 15th 2012 – 24hrs after my finger was numb.

    8 MONTHS LATER and I’m pleased to say the feeling is back to about 95% – still a tiny tinge of numbness, but I’m guessing that will go in the next few months.

    I didn’t do anything special in that time, I guess the body just fixes things eventually!

    I think my case was more severe than most peoples, but it still didn’t require surgery.

    Hope that helps anyone massively worried about their numb digits!

  13. Kevhines
    Posted 10/21/2012 at 12:44 pm | Permalink

    neillyd – that is the longest I’ve ever heard it persisting. Most people who complained for Grocery Bag Syndrome had it get better within a month.

    Sorry you had numbness for so long. I’d consider seeing a doctor next time something persists for a month or more. But I am glad you are better now!

  14. Stacey
    Posted 11/8/2012 at 11:41 am | Permalink

    Ha ha!! I have the same thing in the tip of my middle finger. Mine wasn’t from grocery shopping it was from holding a paint can for over an hour in the same position on my finger. Day two and it’s still tingly. Here’s hoping it goes away. Lesson learned for sure.

  15. Chris
    Posted 12/5/2012 at 11:53 am | Permalink

    This is a really interesting series of posts! Even though this was started a long time ago, I had no idea it was quite this common, so I will add my own two cents to the comments here.

    I was carrying a stupidly ridiculous number of plastic grocery bags in from the car last night. It was a lot of weight, but because it was cold outside (Northern Canada in December), I wanted to be a hero and do it all in one trip. When I finally set them all down, the tip of my ring finger was completely numb, and persisted throughout all last evening.

    The embarrassing thing is that I am a healthcare professional who not only uses my hands all day, but would NEVER recommend that any of my patients EVER carry that many bags of heavy groceries in one shot – more for fear of low back or shoulder injury than what we’re talking about here. Although my low back and shoulder are fine, I feel like a hypocrite!

    Anyway, the so-called Grocery Bag Syndrome (GBS) seems to be a mild form of something called neurapraxia. The good news is that as long as the damage isn’t too severe (i.e. there is not a lot of scar tissue buildup), usually peripheral nerves do typically slowly regenerate. My finger is already 50% better this morning, so my case of GBS is obviously a milder one than some mentioned in the above posts.

    It’s interesting to think that the switch from paper grocery bags years ago to plastic bags has allowed all of us to carry much more weight in one load, and while some might find that convenient, it obviously has some potential risk to it – both musculoskeletal and neurological. On a personal note, the ironic thing is that I have a grocery bag handle carrier as mentioned in a couple of the above postings, but I never use it. Now I think I might start using it, and also (much more importantly) maybe follow my own professional advice and make three or four trips to and from the vehicle from now on!

    Just out of curiosity, have any previous posters ended up with any permanent numbness (i.e. greater than 5 or 10 percent deficit) following their episode with GBS?

  16. Kevhines
    Posted 12/8/2012 at 1:14 am | Permalink

    Chris, it’s great to hear from an expert. Even if it’s an expert who gave himself GBS.

    I don’t hear back from too many of the people who post here so I can’t really tell you how many have full recoveries. The few who do come back have mostly had full recovery. The only case that didn’t was the recent case of NeillyD who posted in October that she still had some numbess (She said 95% recovery).

    And I worry about Dan from back in June who mentioned pain rather then numbness. I think he had a different injury, albeit finger related.

    I wish I had know how many people would be drawn to this post for help. I would have set up a better system and maybe a built in database of people’s injuries and recovery time. But I didn’t. Still, I think this post does it’s job – which is to relieve people with GBS that it’s not as serious as it might seem.

  17. Jas
    Posted 1/9/2013 at 2:04 pm | Permalink

    I did the plastic bag thing last night. Finger is improved but still numb. It has been 16 hours. This blog was a lot of help and hopefully it heals sooner rather than later.

    Any medical pros able to suggest anything to speed up the healing? Heat? Ice? Splint?

  18. CaraL
    Posted 3/6/2013 at 8:04 am | Permalink

    Like so many others- SO HAPPY I found this post! Yesterday my boyfriend was freaking out because he’d lost feeling in the tip of his pinky after- well wouldn’t you know- carrying too many heavy grocery bags for too long. So I hopped on my laptop, googled “circulation cut off holding too many groceries/bags” and BAM here we go! The post and all the comments put us at ease right away and he no longer thinks his finger is going to fall off. As of last night, about 5 hours after the incident, he still had no feeling but I see from many posts that it can take days or weeks. So he still finds it very annoying but knows he’s just got to wait it out. Finding this page was so much better than spending hours in an urgent care!

  19. Dr. Dipak Hadawale
    Posted 3/25/2013 at 2:54 pm | Permalink

    my middle finger of right hand feel numb .. i think it might be because we are using a lot of computer and middle finger is inactive as compared to other fingers…
    Am i right??

  20. Jessie
    Posted 4/3/2013 at 11:55 pm | Permalink

    I don’t think I’ve ever commented on any blog or article I’ve read. However, I feel a strange connection to all of you!

    One of the worst things about city living is carrying heavy groceries. After finally (really like 5 minutes) setting down my bags I too, like so many of you, had that feeling in my left middle finger. 8 hours out and it hasn’t improved. Hoping I get lucky and recover in no longer than a week! I am a law student and I type A LOT.

    Thanks for this blog!-Can’t believe it was written almost 7 years ago, who would have thought!

  21. Scott (UK)
    Posted 5/26/2013 at 12:19 pm | Permalink

    My middle finger of my left hand has been numb for 3 days now; I can remember it happening when carrying heavy shopping bags. I thought I had cut off the circulation, and it went a bit purple. Now the tip is numb and I keep feeling it. I didn’t expect it to last this long and I was beginning to fear the start of carpal tunnel syndrome. Here’s hoping it will begin to get better in the next few weeks. Thanks for the blog!

  22. Smitty
    Posted 6/27/2013 at 9:39 pm | Permalink

    Wow! So thankful for this site. Last night, after an exhausting day at work, I passed out with my phone in my hand. I woke up because the phone was squashing my pinkie finger! It has been numb for 24 hours now and I was starting to worry! Until I found this site, THANK you Internet. For once I typed in my symptoms and the word CANCER didnt appear. Awesome blog… Phew!

  23. cheyb
    Posted 7/12/2013 at 7:50 pm | Permalink

    My husband just came home from London yesterday, and while there, he also carried heavy plastic bags during a trip to a BYOB restaurant in East London. I came across this, and also this link: I am wondering how long this will persist? He does not have any pain, only numbness in the tip of his finger, and no color distortion or swelling. I was looking for updates from people who posted earlier. Hopefully just a few days, no more than a few weeks?

  24. Kevhines
    Posted 7/13/2013 at 12:10 am | Permalink

    It’s hard to know how long it will persist. In my particular experience it was weeks, not days. It got better every day a little bit and there was no permanent damage. Your husband should be fine, it just might take longer then he expects/hopes.

  25. Steven D.
    Posted 9/5/2013 at 10:47 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for providing a source of information about such a bizarre phenomenon as GBS. Similar to many others who have posted, the top of my right pinky has been numb for probably two weeks.

    My wife and I live in Jerusalem and I opted to carry a few plastic bags containing far more pita bread than is reasonable from a 24 hour Arabic bakery back to our apartment (a 10-15 minute walk). The state of “numbness” is peculiar as it’s a bit difficult to detect at times (there is some feeling in the finger, just not quite as I know it could be).

    Regardless, God willing, I too am hoping that the healing process runs a course to full recovery. Over time I’ll try to report back with a short note about any change I detect that might be useful.


  26. Richard S
    Posted 11/15/2013 at 6:37 am | Permalink

    This exact thing happened to me today and im so happy I found this blog.

    I hadn’t taken out the garbage in over a week and had built up four bags in the utility room.

    Since I needed one hand to open doors I carried all four in one hand with each finger through the bag handle loop.

    Afterwards the tip of my right middle finger is completely numb and has been for the last 4 days.

    Its not too bad, just really strange and I didn’t think this was even possible!

    I hope it returns to normal soon

  27. Adam
    Posted 12/15/2013 at 5:36 am | Permalink

    I’m a strict adherent to the “One Trip Rule”. You know, the rule that inspires hurculean efforts in husbands well beyond their prime. No matter how much junk you purchased at the store you’re getting it all into your apartment in only one trip because you won’t be shamed into going up the steps twice.

    In my particular instance we had just returned from the Mecca of fine taste and culture that is the neighborhood superstore. In retrospect it seems that we purchased an inordinate amount of heavy items. 2 Liter bottles of soda, gallons of milk, vats of shampoo, bricks and some bags of concrete mix. Oh, and we had just gone Christmas shopping too. I stood over the trunk of the car trunk with my wife and confessed that I thought the dreaded second trip might be in order. But as I started looping plastic handles around my wrists and dangling multiple bags from each digit I threw caution to the wind and decided to go for broke.

    As I began my journey I felt a strong connection with Peruvian pack mules and other beasts of burden. My steps were short and mincing so as to avoid any rubble or small children that might topple me and my crushing payload to an untimely death. As my foot hit the first stair my eyes glazed over and I began making deals with God Almighty. “Lord, if you give me the strength to make it up these stairs I’ll never whip another mule or wear anything made out of alpacas.” Well, since I’m typing this you obviously know I made the grueling three flight trek, but the tip of my middle finger was annoyingly numb.

    As I consulted my Google machine I thought, “This has to be a somewhat common occurrence right? There has to be plenty of other idiots like myself out there who’ve fallen casualty to the One Trip Rule. That’s when Google brought me here. A support group founds in 2005 for us idiots. The amount of support and reassurance I got here is invaluable. Just knowing that the annoying tingly feeling will eventually go away gives me the strength to carry on and consume all those groceries that were my burden.

    Now I’ve got to go flog my mule.

  28. Tony (London)
    Posted 1/28/2014 at 1:30 pm | Permalink

    Thats explained it all in my case, I thaught if be a super hero and carry my family’s weekly shop up three flights of stairs, now I’m only a small dude but I managed it ok that night I had few drinks with a mate so never really notice anything until the following day… Around 24 hours later swelling and numbness around the third finger next to my lil finger the next day was worse it had swelled slightly more and the next day it bagan to stop hurting as much but still very swollen. After reading these comments of others experiences I know there’s nothing to worry about it all seems fairly normal so I guess il just wait a few more weeks for my poor abnormal looking finger to get back to its original size but its realy been bothering me so I’m just glad to know its all just normal 😉

  29. Yousef
    Posted 6/24/2014 at 10:54 pm | Permalink

    I too have carried the heavy plastic grocery bags looped in one hand and now have the numb middle finger tip on my left hand. It has been four hours now and the area around the fingernail has no feeling but looks fine as to color. It is just the finger tip that has lost all feeling. I am so surprised by this and that it has not gone away soon.

    I must now wait a long time for this to get better, it seems. Some say weeks, but who can really say. Thank you Kevhines for site and explanation of this trouble.

  30. Steven D.
    Posted 6/29/2014 at 8:19 pm | Permalink

    Although I’m about eight months late in reporting back, indeed, I think after about a month of being afflicted with numbness on the tip of my finger (choked the finger with plastic bags full of bread) I’m happy to report that I believe I’ve experienced full recovery. Perhaps I forgot about the condition, thus I forgot to write back…

    God’s peace to those of you who yet wait for your nerves to repair…

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