Our brain is an electrical organ which operates via electric signals with the help of chemicals called neurotransmitters. Any imbalance in the level of neurotransmitters can lead to conditions like anxiety and depression. TMS or Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation is a safe and non-invasive therapy for treating anxiety and depression. In TMS, powerful magnets are used to produce positive therapeutic effects in the brain. Patients who undergo TMS therapy respond very quickly to the therapy and report better mood, sleep and energy levels.
-TMS Treatment for More than Just Depression
Although TMS has been studied by scientists for decades, it received FDA approval only in 2008 for patients with major depression who do not respond to traditional medication. For people who do not respond to medication, or cannot tolerate the side-effects of medication, TMS for anxiety is a very good option. Even for people who don’t want to depend on medication, magnetic therapy for anxiety is definitely something worth consideration. It is also possible to use TMS along with medication to boost response.
How does it work?
During the therapy, coils that can generate a strong magnetic field are placed near the skull. The magnetic field secondarily induces a weak electric current in the brain. This magnetic field can increase or decrease activity in the part of the brain that is being targeted. What needs to be done is dependent on the type of stimulation that is needed to treat the condition the patient is suffering from.
TMS for General Anxiety Disorder (GAD)
Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) is an FDA-approved therapy that was designed to treat major depressive disorder (MDD). Early clinical research on the therapy focused solely on MDD, and as such the 2008 FDA indication was limited to this sole application. However, in the decade since, hundreds of studies have been conducted demonstrating TMS therapy’s efficacy in treating a broad range of psychiatric disorders—including most notably generalized anxiety disorder (GAD).
Generalized anxiety disorder is a rather common psychiatric disorder, characterized by uncontrollable worry and central nervous system hyper-arousal. A recent double-blinded, placebo-controlled study, published in The British Journal of Psychiatry in 2016, demonstrated the efficacy of TMS in treating anxiety. Using standardized anxiety measurement scales both before and after treatment, the researchers found that the response and remission rates were significantly higher in the real-TMS group than the placebo-group. Even more interestingly, when subject’s brains were studied in fMRIs, the researchers found that patients in the real-TMS group had significantly higher brain activity in their prefrontal cortex—a change that is correlated to symptom improvement.
Findings like these from controlled studies support the use of TMS in treating anxiety in a clinical setting. At Neuro Wellness Spay in Southern California, we have been treating generalized anxiety disorder using TMS with very encouraging results! Many of our patients had struggled for years without significant relief from drug-treatments alone. For them, TMS was the drug-free, side effect-free therapy that they had been waiting for!
Unfortunately, due to the politics and cost limitations of the FDA-approval process, TMS therapy for generalized anxiety disorder has yet to be FDA-approved. As a result, insurance providers do not generally cover the treatment, despite its demonstrated efficacy. That said, many patients have a dual-diagnosis of both depression and anxiety. For these patients, insurance will generally cover TMS.
If you or one of your patients has struggled with treatment-resistant anxiety, TMS may be appropriate to replace or augment these drug therapies.
What is TMS therapy like?
Most people wonder if TMS therapy will subject them to any physical pain or other discomfort. But a visit to one of our 3 locations (Manhattan Beach, Redondo Beach & Palm Desert) is more like a visit to a spa than a visit to one’s dentist. During the procedure, the patient remains seated in a comfortable chair wearing earplugs. A special coil is placed over the head of the patient to administer the therapy.
During the procedure, the patient remains completely awake and conscious, and can relax, listen to music, or watch television. No sedative or anesthesia is used. Once the patient gets used to the tapping sensation, the therapy proceeds virtually unnoticed by the patient. The duration of each therapy session is approximately 30-40 minutes, and is normally administered daily, 5 days per week for 4-8 weeks. Trained specialists continuously monitor the patient during the procedure to ensure proper coil positioning and comfort level. As no medications are administered during TMS therapy, there are no systemic side-effect or cognitive after-effects like inability to concentrate or memory difficulty. Therefore, there is no restriction on work or other activity before or after the therapy. The patients can resume their regular activities, including driving, immediately after the therapy session.
Are there any side-effects of TMS?
TMS therapy is a very safe procedure. It is also considerably less invasive than most other brain stimulation procedures. Generally, TMS is very well tolerated. But there are always some potential risks with any type of treatment. Most patients show no major adverse side-effects to TMS. Mild headache or discomfort at the treatment site is the most common side-effect of TMS. But that is easily remedied by over-the- counter pain medications. Very rarely, some patients experience seizures during TMS. But that happens to only 0.01% (1 in 10,000) patients. These very rare mild seizures are short-lived, and the patients recover quickly without any lasting negative consequences. It must be kept in mind that even the usual psychiatric medications raise the risk the seizures. No treatment is completely risk free. Our staff at Neuro Wellness Spa are well-trained, and they know exactly how to deal with the situation in the rare even when a patient
TMS Therapy are well-trained, and they know exactly how to deal with the situation in the rare even when a patient experiences a seizure.
Despite its otherwise safe nature, TMS therapy should not be used on patients with implanted metallic devices such aneurysm coils, stents or clips, or metal plates in the skull. Prior to treatment all jewelry and items such as reading glasses must be removed. Moreover, special precautions has to be taken in case of patients with implants like pacemakers and implantable cardioverter defibrillators etc.