Scientists say putting a bag of ice on a sprained muscle is not the best way to reduce chances of swelling. In fact, researchers have recently found that a hormone produced by the inflamed tissue that could help heal the muscle faster.

The study, published in the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology journal, advises that muscle inflammation after acute injury is essential to repair.

Researcher Lan Zhou, from the Neuroinflammation Research Centre at the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio, and his colleagues discovered inflamed cells produce a high level of a hormone called insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1) which significantly increases the rate of muscle regeneration.

He hopes the findings would stimulate further research to dissect different roles played by tissue inflammation in clinical settings. Scientists could also figure out the amount of patient monitoring required when potent anti-inflammatory drugs are prescribed over a long period.

Scientists studied two groups of mice; the first group genetically altered so they could not form an inflammatory response to injury, while the second group was left normal.

All mice were then injected with barium chloride to cause muscle injury. While the first group of mice did not heal, bodies of the second group repaired the injury. On analysis they found that the healthy mice produced a high level of IGF-1 in their inflamed tissue.

Gerald Weissmann, editor of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology journal, said: “For wounds to heal, we need controlled inflammation, not too much, and not too little. As we already know, excess anti-inflammatory medication, such as cortisone, slows wound healing.

This study, he says “goes a long way to telling us why - insulin-like growth factor and other materials released by inflammatory cells helps wound to heal." Scientists expect the current findings to lead to new therapies for acute muscle injuries caused by trauma, chemicals, infections, freeze damage, and exposure to medications which cause muscle damage as a side effect.