Should I smash my cyst with a hammer?

Originally Published: January 16, 1998 - Last Updated / Reviewed On: March 6, 2015
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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. 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,


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