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.
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 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.
- 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.
- 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 both manga and anime versions 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 promptly ends up crushed under it). It's not that he's old, though, he's barely middle age, it's that the halberd is extremely heavy, Rory being a Physical God.
- 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.
- 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.
- "Black" Jack Tarr from Master of Kung Fu is a big, tough fighter, except when his back goes out and makes him almost helpless.
- The Far Side: One strip has an "Old Age" truck running over aging people who never see it coming.
- 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.
- This Bites!: During Enies Lobby, the combined stress and anger from the sheer chaos the Supernovas are causing eventually overwhelms Sengoku to the point that he suffers a heart attack. Due to his age, he runs the severe risk of it happening again and thus must keep a tight lid on his temper from now on.
- In The Incredibles, Bob Parr a.k.a. Mr. Incredible realizes that time, inaction and age have gotten the better of him as his back cracks and seizes during his fight with the Omnidroid when he does a victory holler. The Omnidroid then tries to pull him in two but pops the kink back in place instead. The fight then goes back in Mr. I's favor.
- One joke in James And The Giant Peach. A 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.
- Mulan's father has arthritis. It is not Played for Laughs.
- Hotel Transylvania 2: Murray tries to show Dennis how to be a monster by summoning a sandstorm. He chants and spins around, and then hurts his back, only producing a small whorl that Dennis happily plays with.
- In Alpha and Omega, the eastern wolf pack leader named Tony has had problems with a slipped disc in his back as he gets older. It even hinders him when he and Winston (the western pack leader) get caught in a caribou stampede.
- 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.
- HOUBA! On the Trail of the Marsupilami: Old botanist Hermoso, when trying to give a demonstration of "Austrian Savate", gets stuck from a back pain. And later, after falling from an elevator platform, he stays stuck for three hours before Pétunia comes help him.
- Cohen the Barbarian in Discworld has this happen to him in his original appearance.
- In Aunt Dimity Digs In, Sally Pyne, the owner and operator of the tearoom in Finch, secretly takes up exercise and her joints respond this way. Very much Played for Laughs, especially since her clearly reduced mobility gives away her "secret" to her neighbours. Of course, it doesn't help that her granddaughter Rainey starts to spill the beans.
- In The Eccentric Family, aged tengu Akadama-sensei suffered a back injury in something referred to as the Demon King Cedar incident and lost his ability to fly, though he'd never admit that to anyone.
- This trope tends to be a running gag in Tweenies, whereupon Max tends to suffer his back giving out at least Once per Episode in some of the show's seasons.
- 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.
- 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 (UK). It's Reality Subtext all the way, too.
- One episode 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 Déjà 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.
- Hill Street Blues: When a ridiculously obese Loan Shark keels over dead of a heart attack in the cells and practically the entire day-shift is enlisted to try and drag his corpse up the stairs and into a waiting ambulance, Andy Renko ends up straining his groin in the process. And just to quite literally add insult to injury, it was All for Nothing because the guy's Not Quite Dead.
- In Donkey Kong 64, if you fail to beat K.Rool in the time limit, Cranky will try to show you a few boxing moves. While demonstrating, an audible CRACK! is heard and he falls over, stiff. This has also happened several times in the cartoon series,Donkey Kong Country.
- Happens in most The Sims games when adult Sims age up to elders, but only while they're transitioning.
- This is used in Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door when the Puni Elder looks like she's about to go into an Unstoppable Rage and start kicking ass...and then her back pops.
- Bikini has this issue in Ace Attorney.
- In Spirit of Justice, Phoenix cracks his back so hard that he falls unconscious for 24 hours.
- In Final Fantasy IV DS, when Tellah levels up, he will cheer, only for his back to fail and pop. Amusingly, this is sometimes accompanied by him actually going down in physical stats.
- An example of the character injury variant of this trope exists in Final Fantasy IX. If, during the second battle with Black Waltz No. 3, Dagger is the only player not KO'd, Black Waltz will not attack her and instead take damage, accompanied by a satisfying "Crack!". Understandable, since prior to the battle, Black Waltz was apparently hit by a train.
- In Guilty Gear, Kliff Underson cannot backdash, but can bend his body slightly behind to dodge an upcoming attack. But since he's doing it in his aged body, there are occasions that his back cracks and he takes damage instead. This was however changed in later games; he can now do a proper backdash and his body-bending technique has since become a special attack.
- Elderly enemies in Breath of Fire III and IV occasionally have an "attack" called "Bad Back", which costs them a turn. Including (in the former) one example of That One Boss, the Dragon Elder.
- Urano Takehito from Tenchu 2.
- Dr. Bosconovich from Tekken 3. His suffering bad back is the gimmick which his fighting style is build around: due to his inability to stand upright for long (and the problems to get him back to his feet), his style revolves around attacks done while lying on the ground.
- In Metal Gear Solid 4, walking while crouching for a long time or committing a forward roll sometimes makes Old Snake groan and pat his back.
- Alec is concerned about his lower back pain.
- Early in Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood, Ezio has to visit a doctor, who says that someone his age (he's about 40-odd by the start of Brotherhood) can't heal from normal medicine, instead giving Ezio drugs to numb the pain. As Ezio walks off, he scoffs at the doctors remark about 'someone his age'. A few seconds or so later and Ezio complains about his back. (Ezio will actually complain as soon as he performs a parkour move, so he could say this while climbing the church the player is directed to climb, or he could complain as soon as he hops on a fence.)
- Happens again in Assassin's Creed: Embers, when he and Shao Jun are fighting the Emperor's men. He seems to suffer from back pain after leaping down about fifteen feet to take out a mook.
- Sengoku Basara constantly makes jokes about the ancient Hojo Ujimasa's bad back.
- This happens to Pete, twice, in Kingdom Hearts II. The first time, he (or rather, his past self) hurts his back after Sora fought him in a misunderstood battle in Timeless River; the second time, after tripping over some stones while descending from Pride Rock in the Pride Lands (justified, as he's turned into a lion here).
- In Dead Rising 2: Off the Record, the middle-aged and out of shape Frank West does this a few times.
- In Overwatch, Reinhardt is by far the oldest player character. One of his highlight poses has him flex, only to crack his back and grab it in pain.
- Breath Of The Wild, this is a plot point: Bludo is prevented from warding away Divine Beast Rudania because his back hurts too much, leaving it up to Link and Yunobo.
- Homestar Runner: An Easter egg in the Strong Bad Email "the chair" has Strong Sad throwing his back out from trying to sit/lie on a ridiculous-looking designer chair.
Strong Sad: Ooh! ...I can't feel my parts...
- Bad Days episode #1, "Spider-Man": The Vulture feels his back snap just as he's about to take flight. He's still stuck on the same spot when night falls.
- 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.
- The Fairly OddParents!:
- In the medieval Europe episode, one of the knights can't go through so much as a cheer without hurting his arm.
- Big Damn Movie with the middle-aged concert goers.
- SpongeBob SquarePants:
- At least once with Squidward. It only exacerbates the feud he set up between Spongebob and Patrick, since they fight over who's going to take care of him.
- And with Senior heroes Mermaidman and Barnacleboy.
- And the stock audio of someone screaming, "My leg!" as a variation.
- The Powerpuff Girls asked aged superhero Captain Righteous and his sidekick, Lefty, to go back into crimefighting against the equally aged Ministry of Pain. All involved ended up in the hospital with broken hips.
- Grampa Simpson from The Simpsons can be heard saying this pretty much whenever he tries to dance or perform any athletic endeavor.
- "Oop, there goes my waggling finger..."
- Mr. Burns is much the same way, where some scripts have him frailer than any human being should ever logically be due to his impossibly advanced age, up to and including partially deflating when he suffers a pinprick. He'll often complain of issues but never outright blame his age for it (though everyone else will at least silently acknowledge the fact.)
- Professor Farnsworth has been cricked and cracked various times in Futurama.
- There was also the time he jumped for joy, clicked his heels together, and there was a slight cracking noise when he landed. "See? I only broke ONE ankle!"
- Happens to Professor Porter in The Legend of Tarzan.
- Invader Zim:
- While it's not due to aging, in the first episode, when GIR land on Zim and knocks him over, we can hear Zim scream "My spine!" before the transmission ends.
- In "Parent Teacher Night", an ad for aspirin GIR watches features a guy whose back gives out, causing him to yell "AH! MY SPIIINE!".
- Lancer experiences it while chasing Sam and Tucker in the "Kindred Spirits" episode of Danny Phantom. In his case, it's a hip, shortly after Tucker taunts him by calling him "old man".
- Old Bugs Bunny in the Looney Tunes short The Old Grey Hare: "Ow, durn this lumbago!"
- In Making Fiends Charlotte's "pony" tosses a character named Marvin offscreen. A second or two later we hear him cry, "My spine!"
- In El Tigre: The Adventures of Manny Rivera, Manny slams face first at high speed into a clock. When Frida tells him what a good job he's done, but there's still one problem, he touches his back and asks, "...my shattered spine?"
- Earthworm Jim brought us Lower Back Pain Man.
"I'll be alright in a minute!"
- Adventure Time has the Ice King protesting that he needs a magic back after his back makes cracking noises.
- In an episode of Hey Arnold!, Big Bob throws out his back trying to get Miriam a bottle of Tabasco sauce and is out of commission for Big Bob's Beepers, leading to Miriam take his place until he recovers.
- Johnny Bravo has a toon in which Johnny believes he's gotten old. His back cracks.
- Happens to Eustace in Courage the Cowardly Dog in two episodes, in "Courage Meets Bigfoot" and in "The Magic Tree of Nowhere".
- In Kick Buttowski a teacher who used to be a cheerleader attempts a cheer, only to seize up halfway through a bend, crying "Oh! My hip!"
- Played with in The Smurfs episode "Papa's Wedding Day", as when Papa Smurf bends over to show Brainy and Vanity that being old doesn't mean a loss of health, he hears what he thinks is his back crunching, but in reality is just Greedy chewing on a vegetable within earshot.
- Kaeloo: In Episode 101, Stumpy tries to lift a dumbbell off the ground. All he succeeds in doing is cracking his back.
- Happens to Peter in the Family Guy episode "Bill & Peter's Bogus Journey" when he attempts to get into shape and after doing barely any exercise thinks he's strong enough to lift Bill Clinton's motorcade when it blows a tire in front of the Griffin house. He does the exact opposite of what you're supposed to do in that situation, namely lifting entirely with his lower back instead of his legs and moving in a twisting motion, causing him to immediately throw his back out and need to be rushed to the hospital.