Nothing saps your spirit like low back pain. It takes the fight right out of you. When I got the MRI results it was definitely alarm time. I talked to my coach. I talked to my chiropractor. I read tons of stuff online. At times like this you feel alone in your little rowboat in the middle of 20-foot seas. The fear can be paralyzing, but as the saying goes, you have to stay calm and just eat that elephant one bite at a time.
I was fortunate enough to have access to a very good physical therapist, Kevin Lulofs-MacPherson of KLUMAC PT. He impressed me with his pragmatic, evidence-based approach that placed more emphasis on tangible measurements of movement and pain rather than radiographic imaging. He identified a problem in my squat pattern whereby I was engaging in a lot of lower back extension. He also found some weakness in my hip abductors.
He put me on a corrective exercise program that focused on strengthening my hip abductors and practicing the bottom portion of my squat. I took some video of myself squatting, and that was very helpful in correcting the pattern. It's one thing when you watch somebody else move, but when your brain can see you move it is much more impactful. One practice I've picked up from this experience is to occasionally video myself during exercise. Not for posting on Instabrag... but as quality control to make sure I'm not developing any bad habits.
My back didn't start feeling better immediately, but having a program and support goes a long way in terms of your emotional state, and as my physical therapist pointed out that's a big part of the game.