The specific use of psychological screenings to determine appropriateness for lumbar discectomy surgery and predict outcomes is not well understood. Data from spine surgery as a whole are not likely generalizable to the patient with a significant disc herniation considering surgery. As opposed to most “back pain syndromes,” acute and subacute sciatica from disc herniation has a very high chance of dramatic and lasting improvement with surgery. Recent studies have shown standard psychometric tests used as preoperative screening in this situations fail to predict outcomes in most subgroups. Data from the author's institution suggest severe emotional distress in those patients coming to early surgical intervention does not correlate with adverse outcomes. However, the same psychometric profile in those patients with chronic sciatica pain and disability does predict worse outcomes compared with chronic pain in less emotionally distressed patients. The data suggest that the ability to rapidly relieve pain in the case of disc herniation may limit the morbid effects of psychological distress seen in many back pain syndromes. With prolonged pain and emotional distress, however, adverse and possibly self-perpetuating psychological and social changes may significantly decrease the impact of disc surgery.