What is TMS? If you’ve heard of this therapy but aren’t sure if it’s right for you and your needs, take a look at the top questions potential patients need answered.
What Does TMS Stand for?
TMS is an acronym for transcranial magnetic stimulation. While the full name may sound jargon-filled or overly scientific, you can break down each part to make the treatment easy to understand. As the name says, TMS is a transcranial (or through the head) procedure that uses magnets to stimulate a specific part of the brain. The stimulation is used to alleviate the symptoms of depression and treat this common psychological issue.
Is TMS Invasive?
Even though the name has the word transcranial in it, the magnets don’t need to go into your head. Instead, this procedure uses invisible magnetic fields to stimulate nerve cells in the brain. This makes TMS a non-invasive procedure. The doctor or medical provider who administers TMS won’t need to cut your head, you won’t need surgery, and you won’t need time to recover.
Is TMS Painful?
TMS uses an electromagnetic coil that produces a high frequency pulsing sensation that feels and sounds like a woodpecker. It is an odd sensation that may require a short adjustment period for some patients, but the scalp quickly desensitizes and treatment becomes more comfortable for a large majority of patients.
Unlike many psychiatric medications, TMS does not cause any significant side effects. Some patients may experience treatment site sensitivity, lightheadedness, or headaches after the treatment, but typically these side effects will subside after the first few sessions and no further discomfort is reported. Talk to your medical provider about the benefits of TMS versus the possible side effects before you choose this treatment.
Are TMS and ECT the Same?
These psychiatric treatments both include initials in the names. But that’s where the similarities end. TMS and ECT (electroconvulsive therapy) are different procedures. Again, TMS uses a magnetic field to produce effects. ECT uses electric stimulation (often known as shock therapy) to decrease or eliminate depression.
Even though ECT is effective, this treatment isn’t an option for all patients. ECT may have side effects such as memory or cognition (thinking) issues. If you don’t feel comfortable with the ECT procedure or the potential side effects, TMS is an alternative to seriously explore.
How Does TMS Work?
Before you decide whether TMS will work for you, you’ll need to understand how it works. The magnetic pulse targets nerve cells in the brain. These nerve cells are in a specific area that controls mood. People with depression often have less activity in this region. TMS stimulates the area and may help to regulate depressive symptoms or your mood.
Why Choose TMS Therapy?
TMS typically isn’t the first-choice therapy for depression. This type of treatment is often used after other options fail or don’t fully help the patient’s symptoms. Medications such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI), serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRI), and tricyclic antidepressants are commonly used to treat depression symptoms.
Antidepressant medication, along with therapy, can help some patients to reduce or even eliminate symptoms. But these treatments don’t always work to the fullest extent possible. Most TMS providers find that TMS has a success rate between 70% and 80%, meaning that the vast majority of individuals find significant relief after treatment. About 40% of people experience complete remission, meaning that the symptoms of depression are absent after just one course of treatment. If you’ve tried traditional therapy and medications without success, TMS may help you to feel better.
Is TMS Permanent?
The positive effects of TMS are generally long-lasting, with a majority of responders to the treatment experiencing relief for at least a year and often much longer. Some patients may experience symptoms of depression again. This can happen weeks, months, or years into the future.
The possibility of a recurrence makes it essential to stay on top of your mental health care. You may need to continue talk therapy or stay in touch with your therapist for periodic check-ins. The good news is, when TMS works once for a person, it is very likely to work again. So, if symptoms return, TMS can almost always be repeated safely and effectively.
Are you considering TMS therapy? Contact Psyche for more information.