After working to correct my squat pattern and muscle imbalances, the next challenge was to craft an exercise program that wouldn't re-aggravate my back. I wanted to avoid loading my back, so bodyweight movements were the order of the day - air squats, push-ups, pull-ups, bear crawls, and lunges. High reps to achieve sufficient intensity. It felt remedial, but at least I was working again. The silver lining was that doing so many air squats allowed me to ingrain the new movement pattern I had been working on.
Next, a lot of research started to come together. I had read that sandbag squats were good for addressing movement dysfunction. When I felt I was ready to load my squat I started with those, and I felt the magic. Something about the low center of gravity of bear-hugging a sandbag reinforces good mechanics. Plus, those suckers kick your butt.
Simultaneously I had read that single-leg exercises were good for back issues, and also that one particular trainer, Mike Boyle, preferred them over standard movements like the squat and deadlift for the professional athletes he trains. So I incorporated Bulgarian split squats, single-leg squats, single-leg deadlifts, and weighted lunges into my program. Another trainer used sled pushes for his athletes with back issues, so into my program they went, too.
I've still got a few more stories to round out what has gone into my comeback program, but this post is getting long so I'll save those for a future time.