Condolences on the back pain, there are two groups of people in life
Those that have experienced debilitating back pain and those that have not.
I slipped/popped my L5/S1 when I was 20. I remember I couldn’t move my neck, to turn my neck I would move my whole body, I had a turning circle of a truck, to pick up something I would bend my knees - I couldn’t possible bend my back during that period. It was all about bringing down the inflammation.
I was able to manage for a number of years and then it came back, the sciatic pain running down my left leg. It got to the point I couldn’t extent my left leg by more than half a step. Couldn’t run, jump, extent without this ‘pinching pain’
At that point I tried everything - acupuncture (this actually provided nice 24-36 hour relief), cortisone shots (what garbage), Pilates, physio, keiser strength training. Nothing really assisted.
I decided to have a Microdiscectomy, to remove the herniated disc material pressing on the nerve at the L5/S1. My surgeon was David De La Harpe. He was fantastic and all went well.
I am 4 years post-op. All was going well until I blew my right ACL in Netball (seriously, find me a sport worse for ACLs!)
Subsequently I have now developed, a stronger right leg (bigger hammy) and more flexibility. The issue I have is lack of flexibility on the left leg (from where the sciatic pain is/was) and on both legs a lack of upper strength in the hammys/glutes.
For me, the focus is on strengthening the core and legs, this will take the pressure off the lower back the hips (the more I am listening to the body, I am finding my hips are tilted and this must be due to lack of strength in lower core/upper legs)
I have dropped 5kgs+, which helps obviously (guys tend to hold fat around the belly). I have also been doing a lot of yoga - this has helped with my flexibility and my ability to do lunges, asian squats/seats etc - I found this help with lengthening the hamstring, but also with building up the stabilizing those muscles around the ankle and knees (would recommend for anyone recovering from an ACL)
The sciatic pain has flared up since Christmas, this must be due to the road trip we did of 10+ hrs driving each day.
But knowing I still have weak hamstrings, I am focusing on doing leg training 1-2 times a week of doing squats, glides, kettle bells etc. I am focusing on form at this stage and instantly the back feels great.
I guess in my mind, with the back surgery and ACL my mind has always thought to avoid squats etc.
As mentioned I would recommend swimming and walking. Swimming it a great way to release that lower back tension.
I also use a heat back at home and get along to the physio.
Good luck and PLEASE try to avoid using the opioid they feed you (I had a showbag of drugs to take home - I ditched them all after a day) - personally I would rather the pain of recovery than that risk of addiction.