Presurgical psychological screening in back pain patients: a review

Clin J Pain. 2001 Sep;17(3):200-5. doi: 10.1097/00002508-200109000-00003.


Objective: The objective of this article is to provide a brief overview of the major psychosocial risk factors impacting recovery from spine surgery.

Results: Numerous personality, cognitive, behavioral and historical factors affecting surgical recovery are reviewed. Among the most significant issues that have been found to have an adverse influence on outcome are Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory scale elevations associated with pain sensitivity, depression, anger and anxiety. Maladaptive pain coping strategies, litigation, workers' compensation and reinforcement of pain behavior by the spouse also have been found to reduce spine surgery results. A number of other factors are reviewed, including pre-existing psychological problems, sexual and physical abuse, marital distress and substance abuse.

Conclusions: Presurgical psychological screening should be included in the medical diagnostic process of spine surgery candidates, especially when the major goal is pain reduction, or when the surgeon recognizes the existence of psychosocial risk factors. Suggestions for future directions in the development of presurgical psychological screening procedures are also given.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Back Pain / psychology*
  • Back Pain / surgery*
  • Behavior
  • Cognition
  • Emotions
  • Humans
  • Personality
  • Prognosis
  • Psychology*
  • Treatment Outcome