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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 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.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 waddles away, he groans something like, "Ooooo, my sacroiliac!"
Film -- Live Action
- Happens to Jeff in Rules of Engagement during a softball game.
- Ronnie lifting Brandi in Observeand 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!."
- Cohen the Barbarian in Discworld has this happen to him in his original appearance.
- 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 recent 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 word? Ow?
Geordi and Data: <both nod and speak in unison> Ow.
Q: OWWW! I can't straighten up!
- 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 The Sims 2, 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.
- Taken to an extreme in the Team Fortress 2 short film, Meet The Sandvich:
BLU Soldier: (while being beat up by the RED Heavy) You call that breaking my spine? You RED team ladies wouldn't know how to break a spine if y- *loud cracking noise* AUGH! MY SPINE!
- Also, the "Meet the Engineer" video has someone yell "MY ARM!" from offscreen at one point, as their severed arm flies into view. Strangely enough, the voice sounds like a Scout, but the arm that flies in clearly belongs to a Sniper.
- Bikini has this issue in Ace Attorney.
- In Final Fantasy IV DS, if Tellah levels up, he will cheer, only for his back to fail and pop.
- 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.
- 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.
- In Black and White, there's a little guy who can throw around for kicks. He shouts out random (and sometimes unlikely) body parts as he bounces around. "Argh, my back. Oh, my arm! Ow, my philtrum!"
- 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) shouldn't be taking normal medicine and gives him something else instead. 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- The Fairly Odd Parents has multiple examples:
- 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 has multiple examples:
- 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..."
- 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!"
- Mr. Burns is much the same way, where some scripts have him more frail 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.)
- "Oop, there goes my waggling finger..."
- Professor Farnsworth has been cricked and cracked various times in Futurama.
- Happens to Professor Porter in The Legend of Tarzan.
- Invader Zim has this in an advert Gir watches, advertising aspirin.
- ... That's our first Invader Zim example? What about "MY SPLEEEEEEEENNN!"?
- "Ow, my squeedly-spooch!"
- Those are both along the lines of "Ow! My body part!" 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.
- 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 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 new back after his back makes cracking noises.
- Johnny Bravo has a toon in which Johnny believes he's gotten old. His back cracks.
- 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!"