What is Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) Therapy
TMS therapy is a noninvasive brain stimulation therapy that utilizes electromagnetic pulses as a way to stimulate nerve cells in the brain. It was approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2008. For users, this therapy may help quell symptoms associated with neurological or mental health disorders, including depression, which this therapy is most often used to treat. Infact, TMS is often successful for those who haven’t responded to traditional treatments, including antidepressant medication or psychotherapy. Better yet, recent research says that TMS may help treat other disorders, including anxiety and Parkinson’s disease.
How does TMS therapy work?
TMS is considered a repetitive therapy. It works by sending the brain repetitive electrical impulses, which is why it’s also called Repetitive Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation, or rTMS. It’s performed by a professional, called a TMS technician or a TMS physician. The procedure is done in an outpatient setting, usually within the confines of a medical clinic. If your provider does TMS therapy inside a hospital, you’ll be able to go home afterwards. There’s no need to stay overnight.
What happens during a TMS session?
First of all, before the procedure begins, you’ll be asked to take off anything sensitive to magnetization, such as jewelry. Then, your provider will hand you a pair of noise cancelling earbuds to soften the “clicking sound” produced by the magnetic pulses of the therapy. You’ll be led to a comfortable chair where you’ll sit and wait for TMS to begin. There’s no need for general anesthesia as TMS isn’t an invasive or surgical procedure. You’ll be awake and aware the entire time, which is often of comfort to those who are new to the therapy. Next, your provider will take some measurements of your head. This is done to ensure the magnetic coil is put in the right place. Then, the coil is placed near your forehead at the front of your brain and the therapy begins. Even with the earbuds you’ll likely hear the “clicking noise” and you’ll feel a tender tapping from the coil. An hour later the treatment ends and you’re invited to drive home on your own and resume your normal daily life. Moving forward with TMS means you’ll do more than one session. A course of treatment usually lasts about a month and consists of up to five sessions a week. But, all of your specifications are worked out with your provider and are dependent on your response to the treatment and to what you need to achieve.
What are the benefits of TMS therapy?
TMS therapy may help reduce symptoms for the following mental health disorders. It’s thought to be especially helpful to those who haven’t responded to medicine or psychotherapy, or to those whose symptoms are considered to be medicine resistant or psychotherapy resistant.
- Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
- Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)
- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
TMS therapy may also help reduce symptoms for patients suffering from the following:
- Parkinson’s disease
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Chronic pain
- Nicotine addiction
- Multiple sclerosis
TMS therapy success rate
Even though TMS therapy is thought to reduce symptoms for an array of mental health disorders, it’s mostly been studied to treat depression. We know through various studies and responses TMS is a promising treatment when it comes to depression. More case studies are needed to determine TMS’ success when it comes to other diseases, disorders and medical conditions.
Who is a good candidate for TMS?
Your health care provider will try to help you manage symptoms with medication and psychotherapy before they move onto the possibility of using TMS. But you might be an ideal candidate if you:
- Haven’t responded to antidepressants
- Haven’t responded to psychotherapy
- Have had negative side effects with the antidepressants you’ve taken
- Are young If you’re a child or teenager, TMS could be an ideal choice, because the youth are more likely to have a bad reaction to antidepressants than their older counterparts.
Who should avoid this treatment?
TMS is approved by the FDA and considered to be a safe and effective treatment for depression, yet it doesn’t work for everyone. Avoid this treatment if you:
- Have a metal plate in your head
- Have neck or brain stents
- Have shrapnel or a bullet in your head
- Have piercings in your face
- Have a cochlear implant
- Have epilepsy or a history of seizures
- Are taking stimulant medication
There are a few possible side effects from TMS therapy. These are not permanent and usually occur within a treatment session. Some side effects you may experience during your first few sessions, such as headaches and lightheadedness. Here are the most common side effects of TMS:
- A mild headache
- A lightheaded or woozy feeling
- Scalp pain
- Neck pain
- Head pain
- Facial twitching
- Being sleepy
- Impaired cognition
What is the cost of TMS therapy?
This therapy can cost thousands of dollars out of pocket. If you have insurance you may be covered, especially if you have medication and psychotherapy resistant depression or another mental health disorder. Get in touch with your nearest provider to figure out exact costs.
TMS is a beneficial therapy that targets the brain’s nerve cells and may alleviate symptoms of depressive disorders. Recent research is saying it may also benefit other disorders like anxiety, PTSD, OCD and schizophrenia.
If you think TMS may work for you and you want to have a deeper conversation about its feasibility, talk with your provider. You may be an ideal candidate if you haven’t felt relief from traditional medication, like antidepressants and are a young person with a low risk of seizures.