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Rachel: (re: Chandler rubbing his wrists) Does it hurt?

Chandler: No, I just always see guys doing this when they get handcuffs taken off them.
Friends, "The One With the 'Cuffs"

A character has been shackled or put in handcuffs and upon being released they must rub their wrists. Somehow this not only stops the pain but removes all physical evidence that the character was chained up to begin with. In fiction land, having your hands tightly bound for long periods of time usually only causes mild discomfort.

Examples of Cuffs Off, Rub Wrists include:

Anime and Manga


 D: Blood...

Leon: Handcuffs bite, didn't you know that?

  • Fullmetal Alchemist: Ed does this in the first series (episode 41).
  • In the Turnabout Gallows case of the Ace Attorney manga, Maya does this with her wrists after being momentarily trapped in a chair that restrains the people in it by their wrists, ankles, waist, upper arms and shoulders.

Films — Animation

  • Aladdin: The Genie does this when he is freed from the lamp. Aladdin himself does the same earlier in the movie when he was freed from prison in order to go find the Genie.
  • Disney's Robin Hood: Friar Tuck has been hanging from shackles for at least a few days, but upon release, five seconds of rubbing and presto!
  • Disney's Sleeping Beauty: Prince Phillip also does this when the good fairies release him.
  • Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas, after Proteus offers himself to be executed in place of Sinbad (should he fail to retrieve the Book of Peace), Sinbad's cuffs were released, he grasps one of his wrists.
  • As well in Shrek 2, another DreamWorks example.

Films — Live Action

  • Inglourious Basterds: near the end.
  • The Princess Bride: Buttercup does this after being untied.
  • In Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest, after Governor Swann is arrested, Cutler Beckett makes a deal with him, and, after he agrees, he takes off his shackles, after which Weatherby rubs his wrists, which are noticeably red and raw (and probably painful).
  • Midnight Run: As Jack uncuffs the Duke on the train, the Duke says, "Thanks, 'cause they're starting to cut into my wrists." In fact, Grodin has permanent scars resulting from the handcuffs he had to wear for most of the film.
  • City Of Fire:[1] Averted—the protagonist is seen limping down the street in pain after being hung suspended from handcuffs by his fellow officers.
  • Hot Shots! Part Deux: Lampshaded—a character has two fingers bound by the bad guys with a Chinese finger trap, when he is freed, he begins rubbing his wrists.
  • Avatar: Grace does this, after the first time Quaritch and his goons haul her out of the link.
  • No Country for Old Men: Decidedly not the case. The main antagonist (who begins the movie in handcuffs) and murders a deputy by strangling him with the handcuffs on his own wrists is later seen washing his torn, bloody wrists after the handcuffs are off. Although admittedly this is probably kind of an extreme example.
  • Averted in Yes-Man the two main characters are handcuffed in an airport by security. When the cuffs come off, they don't rub their wrists.
  • Friday the 13 th: Played with in the remake. A girl is chained to a small area and her legs and hands have grown weak over the past few days. She can barely walk when at first when she is freed. But after a few minutes she's completely in perfect shape again.
  • Once Upon a Time in the West: After Cheyenne cuts him loose aboard Morton's train, Harmonica is seen rubbing his wrists in the background.
  • In Krull, the prince proves that he is the prince by using the master key to free the shackles from the escaped criminals. They remove their cuffs and rub their wrists.


  • Protector of the Small: Page averts the trope. Lalassa was bound tightly by rope, not handcuffs, and left overnight. She could barely move after being untied - her rescuer had to massage her hands to get the blood moving, the dog took care of her ankles - and had pins and needles afterwards, as well as rope burn. The Beka Cooper books also justify this, since instead of handcuffs the Provost's Guard uses leather thongs to tie people up.
  • The Queen's Thief: Averted. Gen's wrists are badly injured by his time in shackles in Sounis' prison, and this becomes a problem on at least one occasion in the novel.
  • Averted in Gerald's Game. Not the "rub your wrists" part, that's still there; the "mild discomfort" part. Of course, slicing your own wrist so that the blood will provide enough lubrication to slip your hand through the cuff is a little more than "mild discomfort" for any setting.
  • Averted in "Little Brother", after his wrists being zip-tied together for a few hours, Marcus can't feel his hands, nor move them, and his fingers are described as looking sausage-like.
  • Averted in Splinter of the Minds Eye. Halla, after being bound upright for half of a day, can't stand on her own when cut loose.

Live Action Television

  • Friends: Simultaneously subverted and lampshaded. Chandler's been handcuffed to a chair. Upon being released he does this. Rachel asks if it hurts. He responds that it doesn't, but people always do it in the movies.
  • Lost
    • In the pilot episode first time we see Kate, she's doing this. We don't find out why until the second part of the episode.
    • Averted with Jin. After spending awhile with one half of the handcuffs still on his wrist, it's started to leave marks. Sun notices and asks him to have Jack look at it.
    • In a later episode, when the Others have handcuffed Kate, Tom gives her aloe for the cuts and irritation on her wrists.
    • Even later on, when we see Richard in a flashback his wrists are a bloody, infected mess from being in handcuffs for several months.
  • ICarly: Spencer is arrested for causing a traffic jam with a large sign for iCarly. When the handcuffs are removed, he rubs his wrist and says he needs lotion.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer. In the Season Six episode "Dead Things" while they are in bed together Spike offers Buffy handcuffs and asks, "Do you trust me?" Buffy replies, "Never", but a later scene shows her rubbing her wrists in a tell-tale manner.

Video Games

Web Comics

Western Animation

  • Starcrossed: The Justice League rubs their wrists when they're released from shackles.
  • In Avatar: The Last Airbender, Iroh once uses this trope to escape. He complains to his guards that the cuffs are chafing because they're too loose. When the guard comes to tighten them, he heats up the metal, causing them to drop him.
  • In Sequel Series The Legend of Korra, Korra rubs her wrists after Beifong releases her from custody.
  • Justice League Unlimited: "Grudge Match" Black Canary rubs her wrists after being released. It should be noted her wrists were badly burned and she had been wearing the cuffs over them. Ouch.

Real Life

  • Truth in Television: As many police officers will confirm. Whether it is, like the Friends quote, just because they've always seen it done on TV and do it automatically, or the reassuring psychological effect of being bound and released, or just that handcuffs itch a bit, most perps will do this once the cuffs get taken off.
  1. 1987 Hong Kong action film, the inspiration for Reservoir Dogs