hands are tied
(one's) hands are tied
One does not have the ability to act, help, or intervene as one should or desire. I'm sorry, I would love to approve your application, but my hands are tied by the regulations. The company stated that they have tried everything in their power to avoid pay cuts, but their hands are tied at this point.
someone's hands are tied
Fig. someone is not able to help or intervene. (See also .) I'm sorry. There's nothing I can do. My hands are tied.