Thanks for the response and the ideas. I’ll look up the book and try your suggestions.
I wonder if planks and side planks would help strengthen and re-tighten the erector muscles that surround the spine?
Planks and side planks are excellent for spinal stability, provided that they are performed with a neutral spine. Check out Eric Cressey’s article currently on the home page for an example.
Generally, it’s not so much lack of strength that’s the problem. I would also be surprised if weak erectors are the problem. They are often strong and overactive. Furthermore, it’s endurance of the spinal stabilizers that’s associated with reducing back pain, not so much strength.
Spinal stability is accomplished by the coordination of many muscles, including a number of small ones, and deep muscles (like the TVA) are important and often underactive. It’s the coordination and balance of action among the different muscles that effectively stabilizes the spine.
McGill had this analogy of a fishing pole being stabilized by a number of guy wires, similar to a mast on a sailboat. If any one wire is much tighter than the other wires, the system is unstable. If the tension is equal on all the wires, the system is stable.
Keeping in mind that I am not a professional, I would guess that you have excessive kyphosis which is causing excessive compression and wear on some of your thoracic discs. In my experience with my kyphosis, soft tissue work with a tennis ball and thoracic extension on the foam roller immediately made a HUGE difference, where various exercises and stretches had had little effect on their own.
Once you get the kyphosis unlocked, you can start to get the benefit from rowing and pulling.
I might have forgotten to mention before that walking is very beneficial for back pain. Brace the abdominals to keep the spine stiff while walking briskly. This probably improves endurance of the stabilizers. I walk or hike first thing just about every morning.
In my opinion, disc degeneration doesn’t directly cause the pain. Virtually everyone gets disc degeneration, but only some have pain. Once you get the muscles healthy and functioning and the spine neutral and stable, a lot of people’s pain goes away.