What is Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) Therapy for Depression?
TMS is a non-medication therapy cleared by the FDA to help treat depression in patients who have not found relief with standard treatments. This non-invasive outpatient therapy has helped thousands of people with depression.
How does TMS work?
Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation uses short, magnetic pulses to stimulate nerve cells in the parts of the brain believed to be involved in regulating mood and emotions. The TMS system sends rapid pulses through a magnetic coil. These magnetic fields are the same type and strength as those produced by a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) machine used in hospitals.
The magnetic fields do not directly affect your whole brain; instead, they reach only about 2-3 centimeters into the brain, directly beneath the treatment coil. Moving into the brain, the magnetic pulses produce tiny electrical currents.
These electrical currents then activate brain cells that are thought to release serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine. In many people, depression may be caused by an imbalance of these chemicals (also called neurotransmitters) in the brain. By restoring the balance of these chemicals, TMS may help relieve depression.
What happens when you receive Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation for depression?
To undergo TMS therapy, you will first receive a health assessment to determine your specific needs. TMS therapy happens under supervision in a psychiatrist’s office. Most of these sessions will last about 20-40 minutes.
The therapist places an electromagnetic coil against your scalp, near your forehead. This helps the magnetic pulse reach the brain’s left prefrontal cortex, which is believed to be involved in complex cognitive behavior, personality, and decision making.
During a TMS session, you will sit in a comfortable chair and remain alert. Once the machine is operating, you may hear clicking sounds and feel tapping sensations on your forehead. After each session, you can return to work, driving, and other activities as normal.
You may start out with daily sessions up to 5 times a week for 4-6 weeks. After that, you may receive periodic maintenance sessions or other depression treatments, depending on what your provider determines.
If TMS works for you, you will see your depression symptoms improve or even go away completely. This may take a few weeks of treatment. As TMS technology continues to develop, its effectiveness may further improve in the future.
What are the side effects of TMS?
One of the best parts of TMS is the minimal side effects. With TMS therapy:
- You are awake and alert during treatment
- You don’t need anesthesia or sedation
- The treatment is “non-systemic,” meaning it does not involve medication taken by mouth, so nothing is circulating in your bloodstream
- You can resume your usual activities immediately
- Your memory or mental clarity is not affected
In one study of TMS, there were no signs of lasting effects in 3 months of use among 233 patients. Although this therapy has not been around long enough to show longer-term effects, similar technology, like MRI scans, have not shown negative long-term effects.
Like any other type of depression treatment, some side effects are possible. These may include:
- Discomfort where the coil is placed
- Tingling, spasms, or twitching of facial muscles
Most of these side effects are mild and go away shortly after each session. They should also diminish with each additional session. Sometimes, depression symptoms may feel worse before they start to improve. As with any medical treatment, let your provider know of any side effects.
Is TMS right for me?
TMS can be a helpful form of alternative depression therapy if you have not found any lasting or meaningful change to your quality of life from other treatments. Not only is TMS therapy easy and noninvasive, but more than 60 clinical trials have shown it to be effective.
TMS should not be used if you:
- Have any metal implants in or near your head
- Have any electronic devices in your head or body, such as a pacemaker
Researchers are not yet sure how TMS affects:
- Women who are pregnant and nursing
- Children and teens
- People with neurological disorders
- Individuals over age 68.
TMS is safe whether or not you are also receiving oral antidepressant medications. Because depression involves several different factors, including environment and lifestyle, your therapist may recommend you receive talk therapy and other treatment approaches with TMS.
How can I get started with TMS?
Contact MindPath Care Centers at 919-792-3940, ext 963, to schedule a consultation to find out if you are a good candidate for TMS therapy for depression.
Health insurance providers may take a while to cover newer treatments like TMS, but many commercial and Medicare plans already cover TMS therapy for depression. MindPath Care Centers now accepts Medicare, BCBS, United Healthcare, Cigna, Aetna, and Tricare for TMS treatment. As with other medical treatments, contact your specific insurance provider to confirm whether TMS is covered for you.
If you or a loved one currently struggle with depression, there is help and hope.
At MindPath Care Centers, we believe that each person has a right to compassionate, thorough, personalized care. Since 1994, we have made your empowerment our priority, and are committed to providing the resources and knowledge you need to thrive.
Providing individual, patient-centered care not only benefits the individual, but strengthens our families and communities. MindPath Care Centers is committed to being an accessible, comfortable, safe place to receive mental health care from over 120 experienced, professional associates. This diverse network allows our experts to collaborate to provide the best care possible.
If you have struggled with depression and felt frustrated by ineffective treatments, there is still hope and help for you. Call now to be matched with a specialist near you. Take your first step to living to your full potential!