Oh, I'm glad you made that post before I got mine on. I had to log in again. I wasn't going to suggest you do bb back squats anyway, at least not right now
ell, believe me I know what you want is to feel like you are getting by with your back while being able to do those things you've grown comfortable with and that give you growth. I truly understand that.
But being that you were just sidelined by sciatica pain and that you've had chronic problems...long term that strategy will most likely not pan out. That's one reason I asked if you'd ever had the sciatica pain before.
You report this was the second time and that it was REALLY severe (being that childbirth is supposed to be the worst thing imaginable
) and here's the thing...sciatic episodes tend to get WORSE if they are reccuring (but truthfully most people don't have recurring sciatic pain).
Right off the bat, on the leg press at least limit the range of motion and don't let it pull the lower back off the pad. I'm sure you already know that but just in case...
Another thing is do you stretch your lower back? I know a lot of people with lower back pain tend to stretch the lumbar because it feels good. so maybe the typical toe touch and things like that. If so...don't do that anymore. In fact I'd say avoid any kind of stretching of the lower back including any rotation for a bit.
You mentioned core work. That could mean a lot of things. What exactly do you do?
Basically with lower back pain you're looking at muscle imbalances -> postural distortions -> lower back pain. And this still plays a role even if there was an initital "injury". That is, even if there is an injury mechanism still at work, the same things that promote a healthy back still play....in which case pain would be your guide. But many times old injuries that lingered for a while lead to distorted moter patterns which leads to muscle imbalances which leads to...you get the point.
As far as squats, I'm sure you thought I was going to insist on back squats. Not really. I know you do some single leg movements. Can't say enough good things about them. And truthfully, I would look at front squats. I know that's a whole nother animal to get used to but...
Goblet squats and front plate squat would be really good.
A dynamic mobility warmup designed to improve t-spine, hip, and ankle mobility and a core routine designed to promote trunk stiffness and reactive stability is really the central strategy.
A postural assesment would help. Which could lead to figuring out if the glutes are coming to work on time. And the abdominal complex. I could go on and on but it would be pointless right now.
This is all just the general picture without knowing a lot of details.