[Update: I had a more extensive post on the same topic in 2005, that one's more complete.]
Every bad back is bad in a different way. Mine puts me down fast, but recovers fast. The key for me is cold , cane, and motion. Slap the cold pack on within a minute of an outage, whip out the cane, slug back the ibuprofen, and get moving. (I swear by therapeutic inline skating on day 2, but that's a bit extreme.)
My fundamental accessory is the brilliant Tru-Fit neoprene/velcro wrap that holds one of the four cold packs we keep in the freezer. That patent was well deserved.
There's only one problem. Therapeutic cold packs aren't all that cold, and they're only good for about 20 minutes at a time. They're designed to be relatively safe for persons with impaired vasculature and sensation, particularly diabetics. On the other hand, picnic packs are uncomfortably hard and too cold, not to mention absolutely contraindicated for just about everyone.
So my latest innovation is to double 'em up. A small picnic pack goes on the outside of the pocket, a large therapeutic pack goes on the inside (against my back). The results is just right, and it lasts for over an hour (yeah, I know, you're supposed to use cold for 20 minutes -- I have a lot of experience with this).
Use at your own risk. I guarantee you will develop deep tissue freezing, secondary necrosis, massive muscle loss, disseminated infection, toxic shock, and massive stroke due to multisystem organ failure. You will fester in misery for 20 years draining your family's resources. Don't say you weren't warned.
. I suspect cold therapy doesn't work nearly as well when there's a thick lipid layer involved.