To remove a straitjacket with both back and crotch-straps,
it is almost always necessary to be able to
dislocate one's shoulders in order to gain the slack
necessary to pull an arm out of the sleeves. Without this
ability, only a very oversized one can be escaped from.
Even then, this trick does not work with closed-collar jackets.
It is sometimes possible to get more room by pulling at
the inside of the arms as they're being strapped or by keeping
an elbow held outward to gain slack in the sleeves when
the arm is relaxed. Another way to gain slack is to take
and hold a deep breath while the jacket is being done up.
It is possible for one person to put a willing volunteer
into a straitjacket, but it generally takes at least two
people to jacket a struggling person, and yet another to
keep an eye out for such tricks.
For a jacket without a front strap, the most common way
to escape is to hoist the arms over the head before undoing
the crotch strap and at least the strap at the back of the
neck. This allows the jacket to simply be peeled off upward
over the head. The straitjacket escape was popularized by
Houdini, who could dislocate both his shoulders. His
magician brother, Hardeen, who also did the escape, could
only dislocate one shoulder. Houdini first did it behind
a curtain, forcing the audience to listen to thumps while
watching a billowing curtain for many minutes. He found
the trick went over better when the audience could see his
struggles. In one of his later and more popular acts, he
would perform the straitjacket escape while hung upside
down from a skyscraper.
Wearing an institutional
straitjacket for long periods of time can
be quite painful. Blood tends to pool in
the elbows, where swelling may then occur.
The hands may become numb from lack of proper
circulation, and due to bone and muscle
stiffness the upper arms and shoulders may
experience excruciating pain. Thrashing
around while in a straitjacket is a common,
but mostly ineffective, method of attempting
to move and stretch the arms.
Some jackets intended for fetish use
include additional restraining features
like wrist straps,
lockable fastenings or opt to cross
the arms behind the back. Again, these should
be used cautiously and never for long periods,
as they can interfere with circulation or
make the jacket difficult to release in
the event of emergency.
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