Interesting. I don't know what a similar shot of my back would show in terms of how much damage, but I quit golf/orienteering/running because they were all giving me back pain, occasionally severe. Didn't want to live like that, at least not yet.
So far so good with the biking, birding, easy walking. And no regrets. Loved the other activities, but life moves on.
You remember Walter Goodridge? He just had back surgery in Springfield, maybe the guy you're going to. Was having a lot of pain, nerves in the area of one disc badly compressed. Too soon to tell the outcome, but the doc was very optimistic (even though he said the ten days after surgery would be very painful).
Good luck with getting yours taken care of.
You did the right thing re giving up what was hurting your back. TBH, I had no idea my back was really bad until the sciatica pain wouldn't go away. Walter is the second biker that I know who has had back surgery. Hope he's feeling better.
A picture of my back would probably be a bit scary, too. I have backed off a lot of activities that were causing me discomfort, golf and running in particular. Mostly my back is better than it has been in a few years, but it can be set off pretty easily. Right now driving seems to be the most perilous activity, but I am also wary of sudden and/or awkward movements.
Most of my back pain seems to be referred from the glutes and I try to keep them rolled out as much as I can. Regular stretching exercises and strengthening the back, butt and legs with squats seem to have been the most helpful things for me. I think there is still a lot more to be accomplished on that front.