What is TMS therapy?
TMS, or transcranial magnetic stimulation, is a type of brain stimulation therapy.
It is a noninvasive treatment that uses electromagnetic pulses to stimulate nerve cells, potentially alleviating symptoms of neurological or mental health disorders.
TMS is primarily used in the treatment of depression. It has helped people who have not responded to antidepressant medication or psychotherapy. Indeed, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved TMS for this purpose in 2008.
TMS may also help with other disorders such as anxiety and Parkinson's disease, according to preliminary research.
TMS is also known as repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation because it employs repetitive electrical impulses (rTMS). Both terms are frequently used interchangeably.
If you're curious about the benefits and drawbacks of TMS, keep reading.
How TMS therapy works
A TMS technician or a TMS physician performs the therapy. Because it is an outpatient procedure, it may be performed in a medical clinic. You won't have to stay overnight if it's done in a hospital.
Remove any items that are sensitive to magnets, such as jewelry, prior to the procedure.
What you can expect during TMS is as follows:
Wearing earplugs will be required by your technician to reduce the clicking sound of magnetic impulses. You'll be seated in a comfortable chair. You will not require general anesthesia and will remain awake throughout the procedure.
If this is your first session, your technician will measure your head to determine where the magnetic coil will be placed. Other measurements will be taken in order to customize the TMS machine settings.
The coil will be placed above the front of your brain by your technician. The treatment will then begin.
As the magnetic impulses are released, you will hear a clicking sound. A tapping or knocking sensation will also be felt beneath the magnetic coil.
The treatment can last between 30 and 60 minutes. After the procedure, you can drive yourself home and resume your normal activities.
You must repeat the procedure 5 days a week for 4 to 6 weeks. The length of your treatment is determined by your response and the nature of your condition.
TMS therapy benefits
There are many possible benefits of TMS therapy. Researchers are still studying the procedure, but it may help the following conditions:
TMS therapy for depression
TMS is primarily used to treat major depressive disorder (MDD), also known as depression.
It is generally advised for those who have not found relief from medication or psychotherapy. This is referred to as treatment-resistant depression. Approximately 30% of people with depression do not respond to these treatments, according to Trusted Source.
According to a 2015 study
According to a reliable source, depression is associated with decreased activity in the prefrontal cortex. This part of the brain is involved in depression symptoms such as fatigue and appetite changes.
TMS may be of assistance by stimulating nerve cells and increasing activity in this area.
TMS therapy for obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
TMS may help with obsessive-compulsive disorder symptoms (OCD).
TMS for OCD was approved by the FDA Trusted Source in 2018. TMS is recommended for people with OCD who haven't responded to medication or psychotherapy, just like it is for people with depression.
One study found that
According to a reliable source, people with OCD frequently have increased activity between the prefrontal cortex and the striatum. This hyperconnectivity has been linked to severe OCD symptoms.
TMS can be used to reduce OCD symptoms by inhibiting activity in this part of the brain.
TMS therapy for anxiety
TMS may alleviate anxiety because it treats psychological disorders such as depression and OCD. This is due to the fact that these conditions frequently cause anxiety symptoms.
TMS may also be beneficial in the treatment of generalized anxiety disorder (GAD).
Anxiety frequently causes increased nerve cell activity in the prefrontal cortex. According to a 2019 studyTrusted Source, TMS may reduce activity in this region.
TMS for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
According to a 2019 reviewTrusted Source, TMS showed effectiveness for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). As mentioned, TMS can target the prefrontal cortex, which regulates how you process fear and worry.
A 2018 trialTrusted Source found that TMS alongside cognitive processing therapy was effective for PTSD. The therapeutic effect of this combination lasted for 6 months.
TMS for stroke rehabilitation
TMS may aid in stroke rehabilitation, according to some evidence.
A stroke occurs when blood flow to the brain is blocked or reduced, resulting in the death of brain cells. This can result in long-term muscle movement loss.
Using TMS after a stroke, according to research, may aid in motor recovery. The magnetic impulses are thought to alter the activity of the motor cortex, the part of the brain that controls voluntary movement.
According to a 2017 study, TMS may help with dysphagia, or difficulty swallowing, by stimulating the motor cortex. They go on to say that dysphagia affects 50% of people who have had a stroke.
TMS therapy success rate
To date, TMS therapy has mostly been studied as a treatment for depression.
The success rate of TMS for depression is promising. Response rates for depression are between 30 and 64 percentTrusted Source.
More research is needed to understand the success rate for other medical conditions.
Side effects of transcranial magnetic stimulation
TMS side effects are uncommon. If complications do occur, they may include:
mild headaches (most common)
altered cognition during treatment
Symptoms like headaches and lightheadedness usually go away after several treatments.
There’s also the risk of seizures, but this side effect is rare. There’s a 0.1 percentTrusted Source risk of developing seizures during a course of TMS therapy.