When spinal cord stimulation (SCS), which involves the delivery of mild electrical impulses meant to disrupt pain signals sent to the brain, is being considered as a treatment, patients often need a psychological clearance first. Though this is a fairly routine request, patients don’t always understand the reason. However, a psychological screening is an important step that often leads to more productive results.
Referral to a neuropsychologist (doctor who analyzes reactions to sensation and pain) is done to determine how well you are likely to handle having the small device implanted during SCS. Some people become excessively anxious, and added stress can affect how the body reacts to pain and make it difficult to regulate electrical impulses.
During a psychological evaluation, you will be asked to fill out a questionnaire describing how you manage your pain. You will also discuss your medical history, what goals you have when it comes to the pain you’re experiencing, and what you hope to achieve with SCS. Anything discussed during your evaluation is confidential unless you sign a release.
Many people with chronic pain have underlying depression, stress, and anxiety. Simply disclosing you have anxiety about your condition or periods of depression because of the persistent pain won’t exclude you from SCS. Instead, recommendations may be made to alleviate your concerns and help you manage feelings about your pain.
The role of a psychologist is to help determine if SCS is really the most appropriate attempt at pain relief or management for you. The psychologist may offer other treatment suggestions for your consideration based on your specific concerns, goals, and needs.
Psychological evaluations typically last a few hours. Though most people are cleared for SCS, a small percentage of patients aren’t given the okay if they’re experiencing hallucinations or other serious psychological issues or are not able to follow basic instructions. If this is the case, recommendations may be made for alternate treatments such as shifting thoughts (mindfulness) and biofeedback.
The spine surgery Santa Monica doctors recommend will depend on a variety of factors, not just a psychological evaluation. Schedule an appointment with Dr. Hyun Bae at The Spine Institute to learn about your options for treatment. Call 310-828-7757 and take your first steps toward living a pain-free life.