TMS Frequently Asked Questions

What is TMS?

TMS stands for Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation, a safe and non-invasive treatment for depression, anxiety and migraines.

Who benefits most from TMS?

TMS treatment is beneficial for people with treatment resistant depression, Major Depressive Disorder, anxiety and migraines. Those who wish to avoid the side effects of antidepressants can also be helped.

So how does TMS therapy work?

The patient sits comfortably in a chair while the TMS coil is properly set in place. Then, magnetic pulses are sent to the area of the brain responsible for mood. This non-invasive treatment does not require anesthesia, and the patient can drive home afterward.

Is TMS safe?

Yes. TMS therapy was cleared by the FDA in 2008 for depression and for migraine treatment in 2015.

Does TMS therapy hurt or are there any side effects?

A few patients have reported slight headaches, toothaches, or some discomfort at the treatment site which goes away at the end of each treatment session.

How long does TMS treatment take?

Each TMS treatment generally takes 20-40 minutes, 5 days a week for 4-6 weeks. Treatment duration may vary depending on the patient’s needs.

How can I tell if I’m depressed?

Some people aren’t always sure. Refer to the section on depression on this site and discuss it with your doctor.

Is TMS used to treat anything besides depression?

Anxiety is commonly treated with TMS, along with migraines. In Europe, the CE approvals for TMS include Multiple Sclerosis (MS), Stroke, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), Schizophrenia, Bipolar Disorder, Chronic Pain, Smoking Cessation, Autism in Adults, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Parkinson’s Disease and Alzheimer’s Disease.

Is TMS treatment better than antidepressants?

Antidepressants are systematic, ingested, and affect the entire body. Hence, there are side-effects such as weight gain, decreased libido, nausea, and constipation. TMS helps the brain function in a more natural, healthy way.

Is TMS better than Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT)?

Both treatments have been found to help. However, ECT is very invasive. It requires anesthesia, electrodes, and electric shocks, often resulting in memory loss, too. TMS therapy simply uses safe, non-invasive magnetic pulses.

Will TMS treatment affect my current medications?

Patients usually stay on their regular antidepressants throughout the TMS treatment. After that, your doctor or one of our doctors can help you determine how to proceed.

Does insurance cover TMS treatment?

Because more people are benefiting from TMS therapy, more insurance companies are starting to cover it. We can help you find out whether or not your insurance will cover treatment.

Can TMS therapy help with OCD?

Yes! Achieve TMS is now offering treatment for Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) at centers in San Diego, CA, Beaverton, OR and Anchorage, AK. The new OCD treatment protocol was approved by the FDA in August 2018.

How can OCD be treated with TMS?

TMS for OCD is a localized, non invasive treatment that uses magnetic fields to re -set or neutralize neural pathways in the CSTC circuits (cortico-striatal-thalamo-coritcol) of the brain, which is the area involved with obsessive, persistent and intrusive thoughts and/or compulsive or ritualized actions that cause distress or impairment.

Does treating OCD with TMS work?

The impact of TMS on the treatment of OCD is measured by assessing scores on the Yale Brown Obsessive Compulsive Scale (YBOCS). Based on clinical data, 38% of all patients using TMS for OCD treatment will see about a 30% decrease in the YBOCS score after 6 weeks (normally a drop of 6-7 points). Roughly 55% of patients will see a partial decrease (4-5 points) after 6 weeks. The decrease in symptoms is normally gradual and not apparent until roughly 3 weeks into treatment.

Insurance Coverage for TMS

Within California* and Oregon, Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation has been approved for use with treatment resistant depression by several insurance providers. Insurances that we’re in network with include Optum, Magellan, Anthem Blue Cross, Cigna, Aetna, Regence and Tricare. We also have single case agreements with MHN. Please call us for a full list of providers. We would be happy to help check with your insurance regarding pre-approval.

*Unfortunately, Medi-cal currently does not cover TMS treatment in California. Please contact your Medi-cal provider to inquire further.

American Psychiatric Association

CTS - Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation Partner