I actually considered just what you mention here, and when I thought of how much work could be done in lieu of that I knew I just had to ask for help. :) Another idea I had was to rig a skeleton throughout the entirety of the spring (one bone joint for each and every topology loop) and then guide them by a wire as well. This also didn't seem the perfect (or practical) solution. Luckily, there seem to be people like Richard Hurrey in the world who not only have elegant solutions, but even take the time to show and explain what the result is! Which brings me to..
I literally cheered Out Loud when you got to the part where you could change the bend position, hah! This is a very impressively elegant, while robust, solution. I was going to wait to reply to this when I've had a chance to try it out, but it could very well take me awhile to get it all working correctly (again, I know nothing of rigging in Modo, so I'm just expecting a nice long learning curve, we'll see) and I wanted to reply straight away so you knew I saw & appreciate it. I actually saw your reply last night but didn't have time to answer, and then I wake up to a full demo having been added to your post. Many cheers and thanks! I'm excited to show you my progress and attempt at this in the near future.
Again, I can't thank you enough for the extra work you put into the example you made for this. This is exactly the kind of community I'd hoped to find in this online forum, thanks again! :)