Should someone ask a coworker to crack their back?
March 11, 2008 9:15 PM   Subscribe

Should it generally be considered inappropriate for a coworker that's just an acquaintance to ask you to crack their back from behind? The crotch-to-ass contact made me really uncomfortable, but maybe it's just because I'm generally super uptight. I was the cracker, she the crackee, in case it matters.
posted by TheManChild2000 to Human Relations (35 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Also, she's probably flirting with you, however awkwardly. I'm not sure many people are so tuned out from the idea of "personal space" that back cracking is something casual aquaintances do.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 9:21 PM on March 11, 2008

This is very subjective. I wouldn't mind. She might be more used to body contact than you are. But you shouldn't feel you have to do it.
posted by ddaavviidd at 9:25 PM on March 11, 2008

Response by poster: Damnit, I forgot to add that she's ex-Navy. Some coworkers think that this might explain it; just one of the boys, asking for a little help.
posted by TheManChild2000 at 9:26 PM on March 11, 2008

Like others said, this is very subjective. It's possible she wouldn't ask a co-worker but would ask a friend, and you're more of the latter than the former to her, even though you work together? Meanwhile, I think what's really important is to respect your own personal boundaries. Even if it's acceptable in your office to crack a co-worker's back, you don't have to do it if it makes you uncomfortable.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 9:29 PM on March 11, 2008 [1 favorite]

I would also say yes. And, I must reluctantly ask if she was hot as well.

Ridiculously, my gut says "not inappropriate!" if the person in question is, indeed, hot.
posted by Ironmouth at 9:31 PM on March 11, 2008

Best answer: I've found that some people are just "crack my back" kinds of people. To them, it's nothing inappropriate or odd to ask from someone you trust at least as much as a coworker.

That said, they should respect boundaries and not be upset if someone says, "no, I don't feel comfortable doing that."

I wouldn't pay much attention to this event, but if she asks you to do it again, politely refuse. If she puts up a significant fuss or acts significantly hurt, then I'd consider this a red flag that she's either a) flirting or b) not terribly aware/respectful of other peoples' boundaries. Otherwise, I'd just say the uncomfortableness is probably a result of differing social mores.
posted by treepour at 9:32 PM on March 11, 2008 [2 favorites]

Some people just don't have many issues with physical contact. And some people do. Both are fine. You can respect your own boundaries without getting in to questions of propriety.
posted by regicide is good for you at 9:33 PM on March 11, 2008

seconding everything treepour said.
posted by LobsterMitten at 9:33 PM on March 11, 2008

treepour's response seems spot on.
posted by andythebean at 9:38 PM on March 11, 2008

It's not inappropriate for her to ask, because you can say no.
posted by [NOT HERMITOSIS-IST] at 9:41 PM on March 11, 2008

It's not appropriate in the general case, no. But you shouldn't necessarily read anything into it either - your workmate may not have a good grasp of "appropriate".

The next question is how you politely decline next time.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 9:49 PM on March 11, 2008

I think it's totally fine and sweet for a person to say, "oh, no, that's too personal!" with a chuckle. You'll feel better, everyone'll feel better, if you're honest about your boundaries. (For what it's worth, I might say nyet, depending on my mood.)
posted by ClaudiaCenter at 9:53 PM on March 11, 2008 [1 favorite]

(um, could someone here please explain me to me what cracking one's back from behind actually is?)
posted by bunglin jones at 10:02 PM on March 11, 2008 [2 favorites]

The victim crosses their arms across their chest (elbows down, palms on shoulders) and then you lift them up and shake. Personally i get more from the over-the-back style.
posted by apetpsychic at 10:06 PM on March 11, 2008

I do the back cracking via the "bearhug" style (with my wife)...

Is this the over-the-back style? or another style altogether?

What a strange turn this thread has taken...where's my plate of beans?
posted by ranglin at 10:11 PM on March 11, 2008

"Oh dear, no -- I get squeamish at the sound. Also, not a toucher. Best ask whoever did it for you last time. Perhaps you can find some ibuprofren in the first aid kit in the break room -- that might help too."
posted by cior at 10:14 PM on March 11, 2008

Thanks for the clarifications. I've never heard of this before. Sorry if i sent things off in an unhelpful direction.
posted by bunglin jones at 10:24 PM on March 11, 2008

I think it's inappropriate, but more importantly I think you should refrain from "cracking her back" because you'd be liable if anything went wrong. Leave spinal manipulation, however minor, to the experts.
posted by randomstriker at 10:41 PM on March 11, 2008

I'm hoping to offer a perspective here. I've got scoliosis that was never treatable, so sometimes the upper curve goes out and I end up with quite a bit of pain. Using a mouse a lot tends to aggravate the problem. I've been known to ask co-workers that I was comfortable asking to help with it by the bearhug crack method you mention. They were generally folks I socialized with outside of work or had a really good rapport with. If they said no, that was fine. If they said yes, I ended up with wonderful relief if the cracking went well. Frankly, I never noticed the crotch to ass contact because the sheer relief was so wonderful when it worked.

It very well could be that she's not flirting, but that your size and build might indicate that you could help with her nagging problem. Also, the ex-Navy thing indicates a kind of teamwork aspect to her request to me. For instance, sometimes my best platonic girlfriend works the knot out of my lower back. My boss helped me with some back pain just yesterday with the lower back muscle knot, and we work in front of a roomful of 80 people. There was nothing really inappropriate happening and even his wife walking in wouldn't have been the least bit embarrassing. Granted, I've known the boss and his wife for about 5 years and they're both like family.

I could be totally wrong, and you can certainly tell her you aren't comfortable, especially considering you are at work. I doubt she'll be offended as it is rather close contact in a work situation.

treepour gave really good advice above.
posted by lilywing13 at 10:41 PM on March 11, 2008

Maybe her back really hurt. Back pain will drive you to all sorts of behavior that you wouldn't ordinarily contemplate.
posted by Enroute at 10:45 PM on March 11, 2008 [3 favorites]

Or, on preview, what lilywing13 said.
posted by Enroute at 10:46 PM on March 11, 2008

There's nothing quite like back pain to make a person put everything else out of their mind in order to obtain sweet, sweet relief. Think of it as an opportunity to learn how to crack a back from someone who really wants you to learn how to do it quickly and well. All business.
posted by davejay at 11:24 PM on March 11, 2008

If you are at least 4 inches taller than her, then it's purely a crime of opportunity. It's so great to have your back cracked that way - even though I probably wouldn't ask for it from a co-worker, I can see how someone who is less uptight might. It's worth the potential rejection.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 11:52 PM on March 11, 2008

If you think that your crotch might respond inappropriately to being rubbed against her ass, then you should probably pass next time. Other than that, if it's a friendly workplace, there's nothing inherently inappropriate about it. I'd think it was just a one-of-the-guys thing.

I'd pass, just because I wouldn't like to become the designated back cracking guy, and get pestered all the time. That's just me, though.
posted by ctmf at 12:06 AM on March 12, 2008

I wouldn't think it was inappropriate, just a little odd. If it made you or any bystanders uncomfortable, which apparently it did, just don't do it again. If she asks again and you do not want to tell her why you are refusing, just tell her you don't think it is the best thing for your back, or you are worried about your own back and are not comfortable doing it. I would assume you are taking on some degree of liability by cracking her back, however small it might be, and it may not be a good idea anyway.

In any case, I believe the back to back method is probably more effective and safer for the cracker. I never really understood why anyone would even try this front to back. If she cons you into this again, that may be the way to go
posted by Yorrick at 12:12 AM on March 12, 2008

She was probably in a lot of pain and desperate. :(

You can also crack her back by having her stand facing a wall, flush against it, then put your hands evenly on either side of her spine, between her shoulder blades, and press her against the wall. You can do this without touching her with anything other than your hands. It is similar to what a chiropractor does to a patient lying face down on their table, except it is upright against a wall instead of horizontal on a table.
posted by Jacqueline at 1:24 AM on March 12, 2008

Datapoint: when I used to wrestle, people asked me to crack their backs all the time. Mostly men. I'd guess that they understood that personal space meant something different to me than most people.
posted by a robot made out of meat at 4:38 AM on March 12, 2008

Personally, I would never agree to do this for a co-worker. When I played sports, we did this for each other all the time, but we were friends, and this seemed part of training.

At work? No thanks, and I agree that there could be potential liability issues if the cracking goes awry. In any event, it sounds like you were uncomfortable with it, so just politely decline next time.
posted by genefinder at 5:01 AM on March 12, 2008

how do you even crack someone's back from behind? The only way I know is the bear-hug, clasped hands directly on the spine, lift-and-drop.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 5:12 AM on March 12, 2008

posted by crush-onastick at 5:50 AM on March 12, 2008

If it makes you uncomfortable, cior's excuse is a very good one. Saying that getting that close would make you uncomfortable could make the situation... uncomfortable. You could just say you're too squeamish and afraid of hurting her. Another solution, if you don't want to just leave her in pain, but are uncomfortable with cracking her back from behind, would be to suggest walking on her back. It works. There's not much to it. Just make sure you don't step directly on the spine. You could just say "hey, I've heard walking on someone's back works way better (this is just your excuse, I'm not claiming it works better). Want to try that?"
posted by gauchodaspampas at 6:57 AM on March 12, 2008

No help here, but I am being subjected to the annual "How to Harass Your Co-Workers" lecture next week and I am SO brining this question to the table!
posted by foxydot at 8:17 AM on March 12, 2008

Flanders, stand back to back and lock elbows. Now the cracker bends over and the crackee rejoices. The cracker can sway a little bit and rock the crackee side to side (gently) for a little extra loosening power. This seems a lot more natural and you can probably hold the position a lot longer that the front method. In high school rugby practice we used to pair up and run up and down the field like this.
posted by Yorrick at 9:25 AM on March 12, 2008

But in the original question,

crotch-to-ass contact

How do you combine that with back-cracking?
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 10:59 AM on March 12, 2008

Response by poster: ssF:

Picture the person with sore back standing straight. Picture me standing behind her. She crosses her arms on her chest, I reach around and grab an elbow with each hand while trying to avoid her breasts, then I lift her up onto my chest and lean back at the same time, which rams my crotch into her ass while at the same time theoretically bending her spine backwards enough to make the vertebrae move.

Now picture me, red from collarbone to the top of my bare scalp while coworkers in the room try to awkwardly look anywhere but at me, as I slink back to my chair wondering if that just counted as cheating on my wife.

Good answers here, and I think a lot of people were right in that this coworker was in enough pain that she just needed some relief and propriety be damned. So at least that part worked out.
posted by TheManChild2000 at 9:55 PM on March 12, 2008

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