after spending a month not getting better, it became time to set a deadline and take action. the deadline was the end of Sept, and the action was to limit activities that could degrade my back while boosting activities that could help it. so far, things are getting better. less activity in martial arts class (no throws, limited exertion with twisting motions - slow is smooth, which then becomes fast), but more stretches and strengthening exercizes (superman, limited crunches, trunk twists).
also been working on pushups (last week was 20, this week I'm doing 25 each time) and Australian Pushups (low pullup bar, pulling up from inverted pushup position - think of doing a pushup on the other side of the planet), but that's still slow going - not my strong suit... yet.