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The More You Know: Cortisone Shots

With J.J. Hardy receiving a cortisone shot (a point of consternation of some Twins fans who consider this nothing more than a band-aide on the way to the disabled list anyway), I thought this might be a good time to figure out just what exactly a cortisone shot is.

We all know what it does:  it allows you to play through pain.  But how?

According to the Mayo Clinic, cortisone shots are:

...injections that may help relieve pain and inflammation in a specific area of your body. Cortisone shots are most commonly given in joints, such as your ankle, elbow, hip, knee, shoulder, spine and wrist, as well as the small joints in the hands and feet. Joint injections are commonly referred to as cortisone shots, but what medication or combination of medications is injected varies. Cortisone shots typically include a corticosteroid medication and a local anesthetic. Cortisone shots are typically given in a doctor's office. The results you can expect from cortisone shots depend on the reason for your treatment.

Now, corticosteroid medications are, essentially, steroids.  Legal ones of course, and they "mimic" natural hormones in your body.  But when given more than what your body typically generates, they can help reduce inflammation.  Combine that with your local anesthetic, and essentially a cortisone shot (put quite simply) reduces swelling and numbs pain.  Thank you, Dr Fix-It-All.

The problem with these shots is that they carry risks:

There's some concern that repeated use of cortisone shots may cause deterioration of the cartilage within a joint. For this reason, doctors typically limit the number of cortisone shots in a joint. The limit varies depending on the joint and the reason for treatment. In general, people with osteoarthritis or other noninflammatory conditions may be limited to four cortisone shots per joint. People with rheumatoid arthritis may be limited to one cortisone shot per joint per month.

Now, unless I'm mistaken, this is Hardy's first cortisone shot of the season.  So there's not much reason to worry about side effects at this point.

Generally, after a cortisone shot you shouldn't stress the joint for 48 hours or so, due to flare ups in pain and inflammation through that period.  After the 48 hours the cortisone shot should reduce said pain and inflammation, freeing Hardy to play.

Let's hope this does the trick.  It'd be nice if the training staff's penchant for using the "rest and recovery" tactic would work every once in a while.