For many years, the initial response to mental health treatment has been psychiatric medications and therapy. Although these conventional treatments can be effective, they don’t work for everyone and medications can take weeks or months to exert their full effects. If you’re experiencing symptoms, unwanted side effects, or if you want to supplement your current treatments, you might consider TMS.
TMS therapy can be life-changing. But, what are the side effects?
What is TMS Therapy?
Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) is a safe and effective treatment that uses magnetic pulses to stimulate specific areas of the brain responsible for mood. TMS is non-invasive (does not require surgery) and non-systemic (does not affect the entire body). It is an extremely effective and well-tolerated treatment for depression, anxiety, and OCD. TMS therapy can be used alone, or in conjunction with other treatment modalities including behavioral therapies and medication.
TMS began as a treatment option for non-responsive depression. Since its FDA clearance in 2008 for depression and 2018 for OCD and cigarette cessation, TMS is also be a promising treatment for a range of other conditions affecting mental health and cognition. Notably, TMS therapy is a safe and effective treatment for anxiety, cognitive decline and migraine.
TMS is an outpatient procedure. Patients recline in a private treatment room and may relax, read, work, or watch television during treatment. A TMS magnet is positioned over the patient’s head to deliver gentle magnetic pulses to stimulate specific areas of the brain. Each treatment sessions lasts about 30 minutes, after which patients can get back to their days right away, including work or school.
Are There TMS Therapy Side Effects?
TMS is both non-invasive and non-systemic. It has fewer side effects than other treatments. In some cases, no side effects at all. Other treatments rely on deep brain stimulation or vagus nerve stimulation. Unlike those treatments, TMS does not require electrode implantation or surgery. It will not cause seizures or require the use of anesthesia sedation. In fact, TMS will not affect cognitive function. Patients can go about daily activities following treatment.
Medications are diffuse, go throughout your entire body, and thus cause many side effects. They work chemically by altering the amount of serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine (the three neurotransmitters most responsible for anxiety and depression) available in the brain.
In contrast, TMS is a neuro-modulatory technique, i.e. it changes the way the neurons fire and function rather than just allowing the neurons to be bathed in more chemicals. TMS is a focalized treatment that targets the precise neural circuitry known to be not working well in depression and anxiety. TMS is more than twice as effective as medications.
TMS side effects are transient and limited and include:
Temporary Scalp Discomfort – TMS is well tolerated. Patients report that the magnetic pulses administered during active treatment feel like taps on the scalp. Sometimes patients experience temporary and mild scalp discomfort during active treatment.
Mild Headache – Some patients may experience headaches during active treatment. These are mild and generally diminish over the course of the treatment. Over-the-counter pain medication can be used to treat these headaches.
If you are receiving TMS therapy and require a break, feel pain, or believe the coil may have accidentally moved, your TMS technician can pause your treatment to make sure you are comfortable.
Who Should Not Get TMS Therapy?
TMS may be contraindicated in patients with non-removable metallic implants or ferromagnetic medical devices above the neckline. Dental fillings and piercings are safe for TMS therapy. Generally, if patients can safely receive an MRI, then they can do TMS therapy.
TMS Therapy in California
During TMS treatment, patients may talk, read, or watch TV. Most patients experience clinical improvement by the tenth session (two weeks). Over 70% of patients experience symptom improvement and may also notice benefits in their sleep, energy, motivation, irritability and tearfulness.
Call Neuro Wellness Spa today to learn more about how TMS therapy can help.