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.
See also: hand, tie

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.
See also: hand, tie

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
References in periodicals archive ?
I would dread to think I would still have to be coping with a class full of boisterous children at the age of 66-plus, especially as teachers' hands are tied in so many ways.
"There area lot of African American imprints at publishing houses, now but the editors' hands are tied because the higher-ups don't understand our audience."