Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) is a non-invasive procedure that uses magnetic fields to stimulate brain cells to improve symptoms of depression, OCD, and other disorders. TMS uses magnetic pulses to induce small electrical currents in the brain cortex. These magnetic pulses occur at a specific frequency that either stimulates or inhibits the brain region they target. TMS has been typically used when other treatments haven’t been effective. TMS Therapy is FDA approved for treatment-resistant depression and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and may also aid in the treatment of anxiety, PTSD, Tourette’s, challenges frequently experienced by ADHD and Autistic people, and chronic pain, among other uses.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is TMS Therapy?
TMS stands for transcranial magnetic stimulation. TMS uses non-invasive electromagnetic fields, similar to those produced by an MRI machine, to stimulate or inhibit the brain. During TMS therapy,a magnetic field is administered in very short pulses to a specific part of the head to activate or inhibit those underlying brain cells. The course of treatment may vary depending on target symptoms; it may be about 19-37 minutes per session, 3-5 times a week, over 4-6 weeks.
How Does it Work?
An electromagnetic coil is held against the head near an area of the brain that is thought to be involved in the regulation of mood, anxiety, or other symptoms. Then, short electromagnetic pulsesat a particular frequency are administered through the coil. The magnetic pulses easily pass through the skull and cause small electrical currents to stimulate or inhibit nerve cells in the targeted brain region. In turn, the stimulated cells have an impact on the brain circuits involved in certain symptoms. Because this type of pulse generally does not reach further than two inches into the brain, we can select which parts of the brain will be affected and which will not be. The magnetic field is about the same strength as that of a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan.
Is TMS Painful?
No. In the large majority of patients, TMS is well tolerated with only minor discomfort on the scalp where TMS is applied. Most people describe TMS as a light to moderate tapping sensation in the spot where the coil is placed.
Are there any contraindications for TMS?
TMS Therapy is contraindicated for use in patients who have active or inactive implants including device leads, pacemakers, deep brain stimulators, cochlear implants, and vagus nerve stimulators. People with a history of epilepsy or seizure activity, or who are currently pregnant, breastfeeding, or trying to conceive, should discuss options with their provider.
What does TMS Effects feel like?
Most patients report increased energy, focus, and motivation to perform activities in as little as 5-10 sessions. Many patients have described TMS therapy as life changing. Oftentimes, family members will notice effects before the patient does.
How soon will I start feeling the effects of TMS?
Most patients start experiencing relief after 5-10 sessions, but this can vary greatly depending on the severity of the symptoms and the individual’s unique genetic makeup. Some may not feel the effects of TMS until as many as 40 sessions, while some may feel the effect almost immediately after their first.
What are the most common side effects?
The most commonly reported side effects during clinical trials were headache and scalp discomfort.
These potential side effects were typically mild to moderate, and were less common after the first week of treatment. During clinical trials, less than 5% of patients treated with TMS discontinued treatment due to side effects. If necessary, headaches from TMS can be treated with over-the-counter pain medications, as indicated by your physician. If the side effects persist, the strength of the TMS pulses can be temporarily reduced to ensure the comfort of the patient. Let your treatment provider know about any side effects you experience.
Will I be able to drive home after a TMS session?
Yes, patients are able to resume normal activities immediately after the treatment.
Is there anything I should avoid during the treatment duration?
Patients may be asked to stop the use of Bupropion before beginning TMS, and to abstain from alcohol during the course of their TMS treatment.