Aging is one of those things that happens to us all (at least in universes where the aging process hasn't been defeated in some way).
As people (and other creatures) get older, their joints begin to crack and pop, despite their best efforts. Sometimes this is painful; sometimes it also prevents the crack-ee from being able to move. Arthritis and Rheumatism set in. You get the picture. It can even start as early as middle age when a person still looks
young and hale, but finds they're not as young as they used to be when they try to act as young as they feel. It's often an old person just trying to stand up or do something ordinary, emphasizing the creaky, fragile state of an elderly body.
Oddly enough, in fictional media, this situation is frequently Played for Laughs
, making this a very specific type of amusing injury
The most commonly shouted phrase after the crack is "Oh, my back!" but the trope itself isn't confined solely to spinal-lumbar complaints and can happen with any body part, bone or joint.
- Someone yelling "Ow, My Body Part!!" when someone hits them or beats them up.
- Someone becoming injured in some way resulting in the body part cracking.
- Common to superheroes and Action Movie heroes.
Compare and contrast with Knuckle Cracking
, in which people crack their knuckles audibly to intimidate or scare.
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Anime and Manga
- Comes up in Dennou Coil with Mega-Baa several times.
- In Naruto the aged Tsuchikage, Onoki, has very similar problems with his hips. When he insists on carry his bag anyway, his very large bodyguard opts to carry both him and the pack at the same time. Rather comically, when actually fighting, his ninjutsu can let him fly as well as decrease the weight of objects so much that he can even lift an entire Turtle Island, albeit not completely without issue.
- Yu-Gi-Oh!: Happened to Yugi's grandpa Sugoroku during the KC Grand Prix arc.
- Orin's grandpa in Akazukin Chacha.
- Professor Oak in the Pokémon 2000 movie, as a Funny Background Event.
- Jin from Samurai Champloo after a night at a brothel. Bear in mind, he spent said night with every woman there that Mugen didn't want (he foisted them off on Jin to get the one he wanted).
- Kamichu! - Matsuri's dad is laid low when he moves too much furniture.
- Axis Powers Hetalia: Taiwan tried to fix China's back. She ended up breaking his arm. It Makes Sense in Context.
- It's not the first time it happens, either. In a much earlier trip China tried to make some exercise, but once he attempted to touch his own toes with his fingers... OUCH.
- Happened to Musashi Miyamoto several times in Yaiba.
- In the manga version of Gate, creepy PSIA agent Komakado suffers a back injury trying to lift Rori Mercury's giant ax after someone tries to steal it (and promply ends up crushed under it).
- Neptune of One Piece definitely counts. He may not look all that old but the first fight he's shown in, this trope ignites with him and it isn't revealed until after the fight is finished.
- Paw Broon is prone to putting his back out in Scottish comic The Broons.
- One story arc in Baby Blues has Daryl throw out his back while packing the van for a trip to visit Wanda's parents. He is briefly delighted by his new immobility, thinking it will get him out of visiting the in-laws. Wanda has other ideas.
- In Gold Digger by Fred Perry, this is a main characteristic of Julia, the character's mother. She's a world class martial artist, but has one weakness. Her back keeps giving out. So, she'll kick arse, take names, then at the end. "Ow, my back. Someone help me up." Also helps keep her from over-powering the heroes. Then she gets hit with a youth spell, and her back doesn't give her problems.
- Cerebus in the last few issues of the comic, to show how old he has gotten.
- A BirdsEye advert features some dancing, cooked chickens. The ordinary-looking chicken tries to dance with the other chickens, but breaks his back.
- A radio commercial for Rent-A-Center has Hulk Hogan groan, "Oh, my back" after trying to move furniture by himself.
Film — Animated
- In The Incredibles, Bob Parr aka Mr. Incredible realizes that time and age have gotten the better of him as his back cracks and seizes during his fight with the Omnidroid. The Omnidroid then tries to tear him in half but fixes his back instead.
- There's a similar joke in James and the Giant Peach. The character is being stretched on a rack and in the middle of being tortured he says "Ooh, that one felt kind of good!"
- In Up, Carl and Charles Muntz have a battle, and due to the advanced age of both combatants, their shoulders crack and lock up so neither can deal the other an overhead blow.
- Kung Fu Panda: After the big scene against Tai Lung, Po realizes he hasn't seen Master Shifu and turns to rush up the steps to the temple. There isn't an audible crack, but Po pauses and puts his paw to the lower back and pants.
- B.O.B. in Monsters vs. Aliens: "Ah, my back! Just kidding! I don't have a back!" Link plays it straighter when he's showing off to Susan. He tries to do a single-handstand but messes up his back in the process.
- In The Rescuers Down Under, Wilbur injures his back while helping Bernard and Bianca with their luggage. He's sent to an outback hospital of dubious credentials, whose doctor has some unorthodox methods for healing. As he tries to escape, Wilbur's back locks back in place and is off on his way. But in doing so, he accidentally falls on top of the doctor, who then moans, "My back!"
- In The Jungle Book, after the second time Kaa lands on the ground, as he slithers away, he groans something like, "Ooooo, my sacroiliac!"
- In Mr. Peabody & Sherman, Paul Peterson (Penny's dad) tends to have this problem when he's stressed. Fortunately for him, Mr. Peabody is (among many other things) a fully licensed chiropractor.
Film — Live Action
- Ronnie lifting Brandi in Observe and Report.
- In Time Bandits, the ogre on the ship has a bad back that cracks when he tries to lift things. Watch it here, starting at 3:40.
- Spider-Man 2 has a beautifully executed example. Peter tries jumping from one roof to another and almost makes it, crying joyfully: "I'm back! I'm BACK!" However, he unfortunately does not make the jump, falls, grabs onto a clothesline, smacks a wall, falls again, and then hits not one but two cars. He tries to stand up straight after this and then cries: "My back! My BACK!" All the more winceworthy because Spider-Man actor Tobey Maguire had actually injured his back in Real Life earlier in the year, such that for a while it was up in the air if he'd be able to continue playing the Webslinger.
- Subverted in Soul Kitchen. The main character getting herniated is a major plot point, but in both occurrences when the audience expects an audible crack all that happens instead is that the main character screams in pain.
Live Action TV
- Happens to Jeff in Rules of Engagement during a softball game.
- Happened periodically to Howard Cunningham and Felix Unger.
- The Jeffersons: Mr. Bentley's back would periodically go out, and it was always up to George to walk on it. It was a common enough occurrence for it to appear in some variations of the opening.
- Sanford and Son
- A reality show example occurs in Dancing with the Stars with Tom DeLay at the end of his last dance.
- An episode of Seinfeld had Jerry deal with an entire family of guys who tended to pick up a television set too heavy for them. At the end of the episode, Jerry easily picks up the back-killing television TV and moves it.
- Jeremy Clarkson on Top Gear. It's Reality Subtext all the way, too.
- One episode of Scrubs has Dr Cox hurting his back playing basketball and trying to hide it the entire rest of the episode.
- "Because back injuries are for old guys named Norman with pants up to here, nose hairs down to here, and begin every sentence with a very elegant (nose clearing sound followed by a loud hacking)."
- The Steve Harvey Show: This happens to Cedric when Regina decides to give him a back rub before a dance competition.
Cedric: Ow, my back! My whole left side!
- A third season episode of Chuck had this happen to an older spy (masterfully played by Fred Willard), while he fought with his drunk wife.
- Whose Line Is It Anyway? featured a game of Hollywood Director that went downhill fast after Chip Esten, as a rodeo rider, leapt on the bad back of Ryan Stiles; Ryan promptly cursed and told Chip to get off. As Ryan took a few seconds to recover, Colin Mochrie, still in character as the director, reminded Chip, "My God, he's over forty!" After the game, the jokes flew, and Chip added guiltily, "I broke Ryan..."
- Tom puts his back out in one episode of The Good Life. At a very inconvenient time, though since he works almost every waking hour, that could have been almost any time.
- On Family Matters, Laura has a Dream Sequence where she and Steve are an elderly married couple. A running gag during this scene is that sitting down and getting up is a 5-minute production, complete with grunts and bones cracking.
- On the Christmas Episode of Jessie the butler yelps:
Bertram: That crackling sound you hear? It's not the fire. It's my spine!
- When Q of Star Trek: The Next Generation becomes human in the episode Deja Q he finds, much to his chagrin, that there are drawbacks to having a middle-aged body. When he leans forward to look at a console display he falls victim to muscle spasms, so there isn't that characteristic cracking sound, but it counts as a silent variation of the same trope (if you don't count his complaining).
Q: This is incredible.
Geordi: Do you see something here, Q?
Q: <calmly> I think I just hurt my back...I'm feeling pain...I don't like it...what's the right thing to say? Ow?
Geordi and Data: <both nod and speak in unison> Ow.
Q: OWWW! I can't straighten up!
- Subverted in That's So Raven, the dad used a water bottle to fake the sound.
- Humorously done in Zyuden Sentai Kyoryuger with Kyoryu Violet doing his rollcall pose. This, in fact, happens to Dr. Ulshade every time he gets hyped with something (which, being he Shigeru Chiba, isn't that hard), but having it happen to him during the roll call is the last straw: he spends the entire fight paralyzed in his pose, and so he had to retire from Ranger duty, allowing his granddaughter Yayoi to take up his mantle.
- There's an implied one in Skin Horse:
Tip: It turns out Unity doesn't understand invitations to "get physical".
Tip: It could've gone worse. Most of my joints snapped right back into place.
- A variation of the getting-beat-up version in Everyday Heroes, when two rude guys are on the receiving end of a Hyperspace Mallet ...
Rude Dude #1: I can't feel my pancreas.
Rude Dude #2: Lucky you. I can.
- In Tales of the Questor, Emmet sweeps Kestrel into his arms and leans forward for a kiss, but, well, she has considerably more brawn than he has. With the crack, they both hit the ground. Fortunately, Kestrel laughs it off and still has feelings for Emmet.