Hey ragdoll, welcome to WHL forums!
I fell off a ladder over 12 years ago, and "popped" the L4-L5, and the L5-S1, and damaged the L3-L4 (which is now leaking), and L2-L3, so I'm quite familiar with back pain. Thankfully, the "fluid" in disks is very viscous, and none of my disks have "gone flat" yet, but the one is getting close. I go in Tuesday for a follow-up, pix & consultation, so we'll see how I'm doing with that (along with other things). I've consulted with my pcp & neuro multiple times for exercise "routines", and I'm now restricted to light "core" exercises, which works the tummy & lower back muscles "gently". It takes over 30 minutes each morning, but definitely helps. Be sure and consult with the docs on that. You do NOT want to further damage your disks trying to exercise incorrectly. Also, lupus has been known (over 50% of the cases in some studies) to attack the CNS, which would affect your perception of pain, along with numbness and tingling (among other symptoms) in various locations, so be sure that the rheumy is aware of ALL your symptoms. I have to write things down as they happen, then gather all the notes for each appointment. The wife has a "smart" phone (I used to be the "smart" one... lol), and we've been using it to put the notes in (and take pix of my rashes), and then she'll go with me to a lot of my appointments, so she can "prod" me to remember things... The ankylosing spondylitis is basically arithritis of the spine, with a few extra "caveats" thrown in. Basically, the bones of the spine try to grow little fingers towards each other, and fuse the vertebrae together. You'll eventually have all sorts of snap, crackle & pops from that too, if you don't already... I started on plaquenil a few months ago, and it started helping in about three weeks. I had to quit for a while after I reacted to something (lupus??), and I've just gotten back on it a little over 2 weeks ago. Several of my lupus symptoms have receded some, but the joint pain and other neuro symptoms haven't decreased yet (hence the stuff Tuesday). I am doing a small-dose of prednisone right now. I have wakened suddenly multiple times in the middle of the night with acute pain. The eventuality for me is "titanium triangulation" with multiple fusings, which I definitely do not look forward to, so I do everything I can to "save" my back. The big thing is consulting with the doc, and not being shy about describing your symptoms.
We'll be praying for you, your family and Jace. Welcome to the forum again.
"There but for the grace of God, go I."
"... His mercy endureth for ever."