hands are tied
(one's) hands are tied
One is being prevented from acting, helping, or intervening as one should or desires to due to circumstances beyond one's control, such as rules, conflicting orders, or higher priorities. 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.
Farlex Dictionary of Idioms. © 2015 Farlex, Inc, all rights reserved.
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.
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of American Idioms and Phrasal Verbs. © 2002 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.
hands are tied, my/one's
Not free to act. This metaphor became common after the mid-seventeenth century. An early appearance in print was in clergyman Thomas Fuller’s The Holy State and the Profane State (1642): “When God intends a Nation shall be beaten, He ties their hands behind them.”
See also: hand
The Dictionary of Clichés by Christine Ammer Copyright © 2013 by Christine Ammer