TMS therapy has been heralded as one of the largest breakthroughs in mental health care, ever. TMS therapy has been FDA-approved for well over a decade now, but still, many patients struggling with mental health conditions have never heard of this treatment.
Dealing with mental health challenges can be isolating and debilitating. Trying cycles of medication and therapy treatments can also emotionally and mentally exhaust patients trying to improve their lives.
TMS therapy uses state-of-the-art technology that harnesses the power of gentle magnetic fields to improve or eliminate depression symptoms and other mental health challenges. In this article, we will cover the pros and cons of TMS therapy as an option to treat major depressive disorder and other mental illnesses.
What is Treatment-Resistant Depression?
If you are considering TMS therapy to treat depression, you might have been diagnosed with treatment-resistant depression. Treatment-resistant depression symptoms don’t fully improve with standard treatments like medication, psychiatry, or talk therapy. The symptoms could even go away but then come back.
It’s especially important for these patients to know about all of their options instead of just the traditional methods. TMS is twice as effective as antidepressant medication at relieving difficult-to-treat depression symptoms.
What is TMS Therapy?
Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) is done in a clinical setting with the patient sitting comfortably in a treatment chair. It uses gentle magnetic pulses to directly treat the portion of the brain that controls mood, in an attempt to “retrain” or “strengthen” that section of the brain. It is believed that major depressive disorder and other issues stem from a lack of activity in that section of the brain, so the boost from the magnetic fields can help reduce or eliminate symptoms.
TMS treatments can help:
- Major Depressive Disorder
- Smoking Cessation
- Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
What TMS Treatment Is Not
TMS therapy is not Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT), otherwise known as shock therapy. ECT requires anesthesia and triggers a seizure to re-wire the brain, with certain moderate to severe side effects, including memory loss.
Unlike ECT, TMS is non-invasive (does not require surgery) and non-systemic (does not affect the entire body). TMS is covered by most insurance and has fewer side effects than other treatments, or in some cases, no side effects at all. TMS therapy is an FDA-cleared treatment that can be used alone or in conjunction with medication. TMS uses using gentle magnetic pulses to treat specific areas of the brain known to be underactive in conditions affecting mental health and cognition. Unlike medications, which affect the entire body, TMS therapy treats mental health at the source.
How Does TMS Therapy Work?
During a TMS therapy treatment session, magnetic pulses from the TMS chair stimulate the portion of the brain that impacts moods and emotions. This treatment uses an MRI-strength magnet to physically rehabilitate the brain circuitry known to be responsible for mood and anxiety disorders. Inside the device is an electromagnetic coil that gently and painlessly sends pulses of magnetic fields into the section of the brain impacted by a mental health issue.
Patients report that the gentle pulses feel like taps on the scalp. Most of our patients say that the TMS sensation takes some getting used to, but isn’t painful. If at any time you require a break or feel pain, your TMS technician can pause your treatment to make sure you are comfortable.
An even more advanced treatment is known as Magnetic e-Resonance Therapy, or MeRT. MeRT combines TMS with EEG and EKG to design a custom treatment protocol for each person’s unique brain. This is a TMS therapy protocol that shortens the duration of the magnetic field pulses while targeting very specific parts of the brain.
Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation: Things to Consider
TMS has been FDA-Approved since 2008, and it is a non-invasive treatment with zero downtime. However, there are mild side effects and other nuances patients describe during and after treatment sessions. Let’s explore the pros and cons of TMS therapy.
PROS OF TMS THERAPY
- HOPE: When other treatments have fallen short of helping with these personal troubles, TMS is poised to create another option for recovery.
- NON-INVASIVE: TMS therapy is done in a clinical setting with no downtime, injections, or anesthesia.
- FAST RELIEF: Unlike traditional medication which can be trial and error over a long period of time and can take months to exert their full effects, TMS improves symptoms in as little as 10 sessions (2 weeks).
- DRUG-FREE & NO SYSTEMIC SIDE EFFECTS: Transcranial magnetic stimulation has far fewer side effects than antidepressant medications. With more than 10,000 treatments performed in clinical trials, the most common side effect was temporary and mild scalp discomfort during active treatment. Unlike medications, which affect the entire body as they pass through the blood-brain barrier, TMS therapy treats the brain directly. Because TMS is non-invasive, non-systemic, and has fewer side effects than medications, many people including those who are pregnant or breastfeeding choose TMS over other treatment options.
- INSURANCE COVERAGE: While TMS might be new to you, it’s FDA approved and considered a “medically necessary” treatment in most cases. This means that most insurance companies will cover the sessions. Our patient care coordinators work with most major insurance companies to get this targeted treatment covered for most patients.
- Our team has worked with insurance approval through Aetna, Anthem, Blue Shield, Optum, MHN/Healthnet, Tricare, Cigna, Magellan, Beacon, and more.
- FAST TREATMENTS: While scheduled sessions are imperative to using TMS therapy to help mental health conditions, sessions can be completed in less than 20 minutes. Since it’s non-invasive, you’ll be able to continue your day with no downtime.
- EXPERIENCE: Our team has reviewed clinical benefits and clinical trials, plus undergone extensive training on the TMS therapy systems. We explain what will happen, review your medical history, explain the process to get insurance covering TMS therapy and detail potential side effects, plus give a detailed schedule for treatment protocols.
- FLEXIBLE TREATMENT SCHEDULE: You have an abundance of options to receive TMS therapy.
- Standard: With standard transcranial magnetic stimulation, you’ll get 36 treatments over nine weeks. That’s four treatments per week. Express TMS using theta burst stimulation
- Six-day accelerated TMS: This offers 36 TMS treatment sessions in six days.
- TMS plus IV supplements: You can also select a TMS therapy session with an IV of Ketamine or nutritional supplements.
- TMS plus Photobiomodulation: Get a twofer with brain stimulation and light therapy to reduce inflammation and pain.
CONS OF TMS THERAPY
- SIDE EFFECTS: Every treatment, even FDA-approved treatment sessions, comes with side effects and risks. By comparison to other medications and ECT traditional treatments, the side effects are low-risk with TMS therapy.
- Mild discomfort during treatment (mostly because it’s a new sensation)
- LIMITATIONS: Given the theta burst stimulation includes magnetic pulses, this procedure cannot be done on people who have certain implants that are magnetic and cannot be safely turned off during active treatment. Dental fillings and piercings will not prevent a patient from getting TMS therapy. Talk to our team if you have:
- Cochlear Implants
- Metal clips and coils from aneurysms
- Magnetic staples
- Magnetic stents
- REPEATED TREATMENTS: Some treatment protocols will require a patient to be seen daily for TMS sessions. This can be disruptive to your daily life, but the long-term benefits far outweigh any short-term inconvenience.
- NEW TREATMENT CONCERNS: Some patients could be more anxious about a treatment they haven’t tried before, and the tapping sensation of magnetic fields could feel odd. It’s not painful, but it’s just something you haven’t experienced before.
- TOO MANY MYTHS: Researching TMS therapy can uncover some alarming reports of brain tumors or how “TMS Ruined My Life.” There is no risk of TMS therapy causing a brain tumor, just like a similarly-designed MRI poses no risk of a brain tumor. Our patient care team will address all your questions and concerns with references and sources of verified medical data.
Is TMS Treatment Effective?
Our team has completed more than 74,000 TMS sessions with a 75% response and improvement rate. Even initially wary customers were impressed with how our TMS centers customize a treatment for you, explain insurance plan processes, and detail the different criteria for each patient.
Our patients have seen significant improvement with TMS treatments and continue to use other methods, like talk therapy, to supplement mental health support.
It’s important to remember the FDA considers TMS to be a low-risk option for treating depression and other mental conditions. TMS therapy at Neuro Wellness Spa can be a first-line treatment approach to help you live your best life.