Forms of Physical Restraint Techniques

Updated July 19, 2017

Lights flashing, an ambulance carries a delirious patient strapped to a stretcher while, around the corner, police are handcuffing an inebriated brawler. Above the ruckus, a thief tiptoes down a fire escape, having left Miss Smith bound and gagged in her apartment. Meanwhile, a floor above her, Billie and Maryanne are playing "Pirates," tying up the babysitter with Mom's clothesline. Whether for good, evil or fun, physical restraint techniques can assume a cornucopia of forms.


Prising safety, health care personnel sometimes use cloth or leather straps for attaching a patient to a bed to prevent him from harming herself or others, according to health care professionals Joyce Black, Jane Hokanson Hawks and Annabelle Keene. Wheelchair-bound individuals can be secured to their chairs by waist-encircling nylon belts, suggests Humane Restraint, a producer of restraints for medical and law-enforcement professionals. Maintained use of restraints requires a physician's orders, frequent checks for safety, and prompt termination when the patient regains self-control, note Black et al.

Police Work

Restraint techniques in law enforcement involve far more than handcuffs. Guards can hobble prisoners with leg irons while restricting arm movements by attaching their cuffed hands to belts around their waists, notes the Humane Restraint website. In transporting a seated prisoner on an aeroplane, guards can set her legs in locking steel braces concealed beneath her trousers, thus preventing her from standing up without drawing embarrassing attention from other passengers. To deter spitting or biting, police can slip a transparent hood over a prisoner's head with no need for straps or ties.


Although often made of such common materials as rope or duct tape, restraints fashioned by criminals can be thorough --- and grimly effective. Fastened to banisters by burglars, 47-year-old housekeeper Deborah Barnjum remained tied up for 18 hours, reports "The Express," a British news site. When abducted in California in 1977, 20-year-old hitchhiker Colleen Stan was handcuffed, bound hand and foot, gagged and blindfolded, notes the book "Perfect Victim," by Christine McGuire and Carla Norton. In 1992, the kidnapper of 25-year-old British realtor Stephanie Slater packed her mouth with a wadded-up cloth before further muzzling her with another cloth tied behind her neck, observes Mark Owen in his book "Eight Days in the Hands of a Maniac."


Despite their connotations of danger and mischief --- or perhaps because of them --- restraint techniques sometimes assume playful forms as in the children's game "Cops and Robbers," where tying up a playmate can enhance the excitement. For adults, restraints experienced in mutually consensual play can ignite erotic thrills, observes writer Marianne Apostolides in her article "The Pleasure of Pain." A casual review of websites catering to people attracted to restraint-oriented eroticism would suggest that it is in the domain of play that restraint techniques attain their greatest elegance, wit, and sophistication, maximising the comfort, safety and restraint of the bound person while raising bondage to the level of an art form.

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About the Author

Since the mid-1990s, Michael Drwiega has done both scholarly and fiction writing, his dissertation published by UMI and other works recognized in "The Journal of Gerontological Nursing," "The National Catholic Register," "The Writer's Journal" and "Writer's Digest." He holds a doctorate in political science from the University of Iowa.