For a root that has been under compression for the last 5 years, it could take 6 months for improvement. If the symptoms are at least 50% better than before surgery and have not substantially become worse, you can afford some time to allow improvement. If after another 4 weeks, there is no improvement, it might be worth it to get another MRI with gadolinium. Seromas (fluid collections) can cause mild compressive symptoms and if necessary, can be evacuated with an injection.
You note: “When I bend laterally to the right, I hear some crackling on my left side around where the disc is. It sounds like pouring milk over rice crispy treats. Additionally, when I squeeze my glutes really hard I can hear something pop near my sacrum. Any idea what these are?” These are probably joint (facet/SI) releases, similar to what a Chiropractor’s adjustment sounds like. If they are not painful. you can ignore them.
Donald Corenman, MD, DC is a highly-regarded spine surgeon, considered an expert in the area of neck and back pain. Trained as both a Medical Doctor and Doctor of Chiropractic, Dr. Corenman earned academic appointments as Clinical Assistant Professor and Assistant Professor of Orthopaedic Surgery at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center, and his research on spine surgery and rehabilitation has resulted in the publication of multiple peer-reviewed articles and two books.