A Complete Guide to TMS and How It Works

Are you suffering from mental issues, such as depression and anxiety? TMS treatment may be your solution.

Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) is a non-invasive way to stimulate specific brain parts with electromagnetic fields. It helps treat mental health problems, including major depressive disorder and bipolar disorder. It can also help with pain management, memory loss associated with aging, and weight loss.

The following review how the therapy works and the benefits of the treatment.

What is Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation?

Transcranial magnetic stimulation is a medicinal therapy that uses magnetic fields to stimulate nerve cells in the brain. The procedure is non-invasive, and because the magnets are outside the head, it’s safe for patients who have medical conditions or devices like pacemakers.

TMS has been approved by the FDA since 2008. Although it requires more treatments than medications, TMS treatment may be proper for you if:

  • You haven’t responded to medication, or your side effects are too strong.
  • You haven’t found the appropriate cure yet.
  • You don’t want to take medications for mental health issues.

How Does TMS Therapy Work?

The procedure is different than electroconvulsive therapy (ECT), which uses electric currents. Instead, the treatment method uses magnetic energy to activate parts of the brain that affect mood and thinking.

1. Before treatment begins, you’ll meet with your doctor to discuss your symptoms and medical history. They will also outline the risks involved in the therapy.

2. You’ll then meet with a therapist who will place the device on your head and determine the correct dosage of stimulation for you. It is also when you’ll better understand how the therapy works because the therapist will explain what’s happening to your brain during each session.

3. If your depression symptoms haven’t improved after a few weeks to a month, your doctor may increase the stimulation dosage.

4. The device is fitted with a round, hollow magnetic coil that emits short energy pulses. You’ll receive about 40 sessions over several weeks or months—it’s different for every patient and depends on how well you respond to treatment. During the treatment process, you’ll sit in a chair with the TMS device placed over your head.

5. As the magnetic energy passes through the coils, it generates an electric current that stimulates nerve cells in one area of your brain. It causes neurotransmitters to release into that specific area.

You can talk with your therapist during the procedure and ask questions about what you’re experiencing. Some common side effects of the treatment include:

  • Headache
  • Pain or discomfort at the location where the coil rests on your scalp

You may feel some minor pain during treatment, but if it doesn’t stop within a few minutes, you should notify your doctor or therapist.

Benefits of TMS Therapy

Medical therapy provides many benefits over medications because it doesn’t have the same side effects. Here are a few of them:

1. It is a Non-invasive Treatment

Unlike medications, the therapy doesn’t have serious side effects because it’s a non-invasive treatment. The procedure is safe and can be used with other medicines for higher success rates.

2. It has Fewer Side Effects than Medications

People who use the treatment mode may experience headaches and scalp pain during their sessions, but it’s still a better option than medications.

3. It is Used in Conjunction with Other Treatments

If you’re already taking medication for your condition, the medical therapy can be used to lower the dosage and improve your treatment plan. In some studies, about one-third of patients were able to stop using their medications after they began TMS therapy.

4. It Works Quickly

Some of the symptoms you may feel during your sessions are minor side effects, but the therapy also helps ease symptoms quickly—usually within a few weeks of treatment. For some patients, symptoms may disappear after just one session.

5. The Results Last Longer than Other Treatment Modalities

The effects of this therapy last longer than other treatment options because it improves your brain activity. Some patients experience relief for several months or even years, and that’s important for those who suffer from chronic depression.

Things to Check Before the Therapy

Before you begin the therapy, there are a few things to check with your doctor.

1. Insurance Coverage

While you or your insurance provider may cover the treatment costs, policies vary for each person and company, so it’s essential to find out first. The average price of a TMS session is about $200, but this amount can vary depending on your insurance plan.

2. The Potential Side Effects

Some patients experience headache or scalp pain during their sessions—but in some cases, these symptoms go away after a few sessions.

How Long Does One Session Last?

Each session usually lasts about 45 minutes, but the time varies depending on your condition and treatment plan. You can also expect to come in for five sessions each week.