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Joints are the junctions between bones and are supported by a strong band of fibre called the ligament. There are two main types of joints - the hinge joints (elbows, knees, fingers) and the ball and socket joints (hips, shoulders). Injuries to the joints are known as sprains while injuries to the muscles that moves the bones are described as strains. Dislocations happen when the bone partially or completely comes out of its socket. Sometimes it is difficult to tell the difference between a dislocated joint and a broken bone so if you are in doubt treat it as a fracture and consult a doctor. These problems are common and can be very painful.

A sprain takes place when the ligaments which hold the bones together are stretched too much or torn. The signs indicating a sprain are very similar to those of fractures. Pain and tenderness is felt in the affected area and movement increases the pain. The joint will swell up and bruising may develop. Sprains often occur when you twist your foot on the edge of a sidewalk or fall over. There are four ways to treat sprains - Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation; you can remember this by memorising the acronym RICE.

Awkward or violent movements can tear or strain muscles. This is referred to as a pulled muscle and is one of the most common sports injuries. Muscle strain is also a common cause of back pain. The affected area may gradually become stiff and movement makes it worse. There may also be swelling and bruising. If the muscle has been torn in half it can look as though it has a dent in it. As with a sprain, following the RICE procedure is helpful and in severe cases an Ibuprofen drug can be taken to reduce inflammation. After a period of rest, stretching exercises can be carried out to aid the healing process.

A dislocation happens when the bones at a joint are displaced, usually as a result of sudden twisting or severe strain on the joint. The casualty will experience pain on moving the joint and there may be swelling and a slight deformity. The affected area should be elevated or supported with pillows or an arm sling and medical help should be called for.