I don't have insurance, so I can't got to the doc. I thought I'd try the next best thing and ask for advice on the internet.
BACKSTORY: I usually workout in my backyard, so when I deadlift I basically just drop the weight down. About three weeks ago, I was out of town, and I went to college gym. I had to deadlift in front of a mirror, under bright lights, with about 20 hot college girls on stairmasters behind me. The whole thing was bizzare and distracting. I was deadlifting fairly light, around 70% of my max. At first I just put the bar down as usual, but I became very self-conscious about the loud bang it made, so on my next set, I thoughtlessly put the wieght down more slowly; imagine a free fall at about half speed.
Big mistake. I felt a pain in my lower back, on the right side. The pain wasn't terribly sharp; it felt more like the muscle moved, ummm, sideways or something. After that, my lower back was painfully stiff and tight, especially on the right side. I was so annoyed that I hurt my back on such a light wieght that I tried another set, but this time as I lifted the bar, I felt my spine "pop", like when you crack a knuckle. It didn't hurt - but it freaked me the fuck out, so I stopped lifting for the day.
Then, I got sick and didn't exercise for three weeks (part sickness, part laziness). That takes us to today. My back hadn't felt bad, but I hadn't done anything for awhile. I did a light warmup and then some squats, and worked up to about 80% of my max. I'm pretty good about going ass-to-grass with my squats, and when I was coming up out of the hole, I felt a brief sharp pain up and down my spine. I think I may have leaned forward just a little and then compensated by puching back when I felt the pain. I racked the weight, and my back felt stiff again in the same palce, lower right side. I'm sitting in a chair right now, and when I arch my back, I can fell a pain there, like someone is grinding their knuckle into my lower right back, right next to the spine.
It doesn't seem like it's terribly serious... yet. But seeing as I have no insurance, I don't want to push it. So, TNation experts, what is my injury, and how should I go about lifting to avoid serious injury? Thanks!