TMS (transcranial magnetic stimulation/neuromodulation) is a treatment where the brain is stimulated using magnets.

The primary goal of this non-invasive treatment is to induce an antidepressant effect.  TMS treatment sessions consist of 20-30 minute daily sessions for most patients for 4-6 weeks.

By improving mood, TMS may also improve function and quality of life.

How Does It Work?

TMS Therapy, a non-invasive procedure that treats depression using repetitive Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (rTMS), delivers targeted magnetic pulses to areas of the brain underactive in patients with depression.

Each treatment session lasts for about 40 minutes, during which you’ll come into the clinic and sit at a comfortable workstation where your head will be positioned beneath the TMS device.

Treatment sessions are brief, but having them done daily may feel like a part of your routine.

Once treatment begins, you can expect to:

Feel an Initial Tingling Sensation

It is a common experience during neuromodulation therapy. The stimulator delivers a quick burst of magnetic energy that stimulates the region of your brain associated with mood regulation and depression.

Depending on which brain area is being stimulated, some patients report feeling an initial tingling sensation or other forms of paresthesia (numbness, prickling, or tingling).

Feel a Pulsating Sensation

As the magnetic pulse travels through your skull and into your brain, you may feel a pulsating sensation. It is also a shared experience and usually subsides within a few minutes.

Experience an Improvement in Mood

TMS can improve mood for patients with depression. It may take several weeks to notice the effects, but TMS provides almost immediate relief from symptoms of depression that can last as long as two years for some patients.

Some patients may also experience:

  • Reduced Anxiety
  • Improved Concentration
  • Feel Relaxed

TMS is a relaxing experience for most people. The magnet never touches your scalp, and you can sit back in your seat during treatment with your eyes open or closed (your doctor will recommend which works best.)

If you do feel nervous, don’t hesitate to speak up. Many patients often fall asleep or meditate because they find it surprisingly calming and pleasant to be in the clinic while being treated for depression.

Feel an Antidepressant Effect

Many people experience an antidepressant effect within the first few weeks of treatment, especially if they take medications to augment TMS therapy.

If you do not improve your mood after 4-6 weeks of daily treatment sessions, your doctor may recommend adjusting the dose or altering the schedule for your treatment.

Experience No Side Effects

So far, TMS is a very safe treatment with few side effects. The most common side effects are mild headache and scalp discomfort, which usually go away after a day or two.

Some people also feel a slight tingling or numbing in their fingers or toes during treatment, but this is also temporary. Rarely, people may feel more anxious or have trouble sleeping during treatment, but these symptoms usually lessen over time.

Long-Term Effects

Since TMS is a non-invasive treatment, you can expect long-term benefits even after you stop receiving treatments.

In clinical trials, patients who received continued maintenance therapy had more prolonged remissions of depression than those who only went through the acute stage of treatment.

In some cases, those who respond to TMS may eventually need to reduce the frequency of their sessions to maintain the same antidepressant response.

Experience Cognitive Benefits

TMS has been shown to improve cognitive function in patients with depression temporarily. After two weeks of treatment, one study found that patients who received TMS therapy performed better on tests assessing working memory than those who did not receive any treatment.

Feel an Improvement in Mood

Some people experience an improvement in mood during the acute stage of treatment, but they may notice the antidepressant effects even more after a “maintenance” period.

During this phase, most people who respond to this non-invasive treatment only need 10-20 treatments every 3-6 weeks over time instead of daily treatments.

Experience Longer Remissions

Those who continue receiving maintenance therapy see more prolonged remissions and less frequent relapses than those who undergo the acute stage of treatment.

One study found that, after 12 months of maintenance therapy, 96 percent of patients had no relapse, and 86 percent had no depression symptoms.

How Long Does It Take to Work?

According to reports, a five-day TMS session appears to reduce symptoms of treatment-resistant depression safely and effectively.

The duration of TMS treatment sessions varies from person to person, but most people feel the effects within weeks.

For some patients, it can take just a few days. Although it’s hard to predict how long depression symptoms will last for each individual, many people find that their mood gradually improves throughout treatment.

Patients with depression often have underactive areas of the brain. TMS therapy uses magnets to stimulate these areas and improve mood. Treatment sessions last for about 20-30 minutes and are done daily for 4-6 weeks.

TMS therapy is a safe and effective treatment for depression that many people find beneficial. It has been found to have fewer side effects than antidepressant medication and does not require any changes in your daily routine.

It may take some weeks to see the effects, but most people feel an improvement in mood.

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