Should I smash my cyst with a hammer?

Originally Published: January 16, 1998 - Last Updated / Reviewed On: July 8, 2011
Share this


A couple of months ago I developed a hard, bony growth on my instep. I noticed that the top of my foot was hurting, and when I took my shoe off, there was a red lump the size of a quarter. (It's not red all the time, just from rubbing against the shoe.) A friend of mine who is a nurse said that it's probably a ganglion cyst and the best thing to do would be to, and I quote, "hit it with something really hard," like a dictionary, or a hammer. It should break up immediately, she told me. She hasn't seen it, by the way — this was over the phone.

I'm surprised that she thinks it's a cyst, because it's awfully hard — I would have just thought that it was a bone spur. What do you think? And is smacking a cyst with a dictionary really the way to go?

Thanks so much for your help.

—Another Alice

Dear Another Alice,

Hold that hammer right there! In the old days, smashing fluid-filled cysts with heavy objects such as a dictionary or hammer may have been an acceptable treatment method. Today, however, using any object to hammer away a podiatric protuberance may lead to dangerous health problems and injuries. There are a number of clinically appropriate and less painful ways to treat a number of foot conditions. Without a proper diagnosis from a health care provider, however, there's no sure way to know what the bony growth may be (bone spur, cyst, bunion, plantar wart, or something else entirely), and therefore, how to treat it.

Considering the fact that a health care provider has not yet examined your foot, you may want to consider making an appointment to see a primary care provider and/or podiatrist, who will be able to examine the growth, figure out what it is, and treat it. Columbia students can make an appointment to see a health care provider at Medical Services by calling x4-2284 or by logging in to Open Communicator. For more resources, such as finding a podiatrist in your area and/or learning more about foot conditions, you may want to visit the American Podiatric Medical Association website.

Here's hoping that this response hammered home the point,


August 28, 1998


Dear Alice,

While reading some of the questions in your General Health miscellaneous files, I came across one where the individual asked what to do about a growth...

Dear Alice,

While reading some of the questions in your General Health miscellaneous files, I came across one where the individual asked what to do about a growth (or cyst) she had discovered on the bottom of her foot. The question involv ed something along the lines of whether she should "smash it with a hammer."

Alice, about two years ago, my grandfather had a similar cyst on the heel of his foot. It caused him no pain on its own, but made wearing his shoes fairly uncomfortable. A year later, that innocent looking cyst began to blacken and that's when he decided to have it checked out. That harmless little bump on his foot turned out to be melanoma. My grandfather is now taking chemotherapy.

Basically, I just wanted to inform that student and others that anything that appears out of the ordinary on your body should be checked out by a professional; someone who takes the time to look at, run tests on, and analyse what we might otherwise consid er innocent bumps and benign growths. Never should one risk his or her health with advice based on what the problem "sounds" like because, often times enough, the way we make things sound isn't nearly as serious as they might really be.

--- a concerned kid from Canada