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The need to restrain service users will vary according to the area of practice within which practitioners are employed. Many of the principles that relate to the issue of restraining service users are, however, applicable to all, or most, health and social care settings. While the emphasis should be on pre-emptive action, wherever possible, in order to prevent the need to restrain, there are some occasions on which the risks to the service user, or others, of inaction may outweigh those of taking action. Some of the key issues are discussed in this paper.