The purpose of this study was to explore and understand hospitalized elderly patients' perceptions and experiences of physical restraints. In-depth interviews and observations were used to collect data in four hospitals in southern Taiwan. Purposive sampling was applied, and 15 elderly patients who had experienced physical restraints during their hospitalization were interviewed using semi-structured questionnaires. The data collection period was from July 2002 to February 2004. Content analysis was used to analyze and categorize the data, which were classified into four thematic categories, as follows: (1) physical limitation and inconvenience: limited use of limbs and inconvenience associated with daily activities, (2) emotional impact: powerlessness, anxiety, anger, self-blame, and depression, (3) coping strategies: trying to free oneself from the restraint, patiently putting up with it, being convinced without choice, and (4) fatalistic self-interpretation: a rationalized perspective, being punished passively, a fatalistic concept of cause and effect. The findings of this research may help nurses, the main decision-makers as regards the use of restraints, to understand the perceptions and experiences of hospitalized elderly patients who are restrained. This may assist them in providing individual and human care.