Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) therapy revolutionizes treatment for Major Depressive Disorder (MDD), Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), and other mood disorders. Yet some patients are concerned that it is painful to undergo TMS, which leads them away from trying this form of depression treatment entirely.
At Achieve TMS, we want our patients to feel comfortable and confident about their decision to undergo TMS therapy with us, and assure you that TMS is generally pain-free. Patients report that TMS treatments feel like a tapping on the scalp, though there is no physical object touching the scalp. This sensation is actually caused by the magnetic pulses inherent to treatment. Some patients experience a minor headache in the first few treatments that can be easily overcome with an over-the-counter analgesic. For patients who experience mild headaches, this symptom typically resolves on its own after the first week of treatment. Other reported reactions include minor twitching around the eye and/or facial muscles during treatment. This twitching does not persist after each daily session is over. Physicians and technicians will make adjustments at any time if the tapping sensation is uncomfortable for a patient.
Our commitment to patient care and education differentiates us from many other depression therapy providers, and we are happy to teach our patients about all aspects of TMS. Now, let’s look at some of the most common questions surrounding TMS therapy, and explain how TMS can be a complementary treatment for depression patients already using medication and/or psychotherapy, or an alternative to these depression treatments.
What Is TMS Therapy?
TMS therapy stimulates regions of the brain responsible for depression symptoms. It involves the use of electromagnetic pulses that stimulate the brain’s neural activity to promote symptom relief and improved quality of life for depression patients.
The magnetic pulses used in TMS therapy are directed toward areas of the brain responsible for mood regulation. These parts of the brain have been shown to be underactive in patients with depression, contributing to their symptoms. The magnetic pulses pass painlessly through the patient’s skull, enhancing the small electrical currents that neurons naturally produce when they fire. This helps activate the underactive regions, releasing neurotransmitters such as serotonin and norepinephrine.
Research supports the use of TMS therapy to help patients coping with depression and OCD. Recent studies indicate that 49% of patients who received TMS treatment experienced no depression symptoms at all upon completion of a therapy program.
In some instances, TMS therapy is used when medication, psychotherapy, or other depression treatments are ineffective. At other times, TMS is used in combination with different depression therapies. Regardless of whether TMS therapy is used on its own or with other depression treatments, a depression patient can undergo TMS to stimulate neurons in the brain, which may help reduce depression symptoms and improve mood.
How Does TMS Therapy Work?
TMS therapy involves in-house treatment sessions performed at a doctor’s office. A typical TMS therapy program requires a patient to go to a doctor’s office five times a week for six weeks, and undergo sessions that last approximately 20 minutes each.
Each TMS therapy program is individualized to each patient, and requires no anesthesia, electrical shocks, or medication. Some patients experience a slight headache after they undergo a TMS therapy session, which typically resolves after the first week of treatment, while others report no discomfort at all.
Patients are always safe to resume their normal activities immediately following a TMS treatment session. They also won’t have to worry about nausea, vomiting, weight gain or loss, or other side effects frequently associated with the use of medications that help manage depression symptoms.
Before a patient begins TMS therapy, a full evaluation is performed by a medical practitioner to determine if this individual is a good candidate for treatment. If a patient qualifies for TMS, the practitioner then develops a custom treatment plan for the patient, and describes what this individual can expect during therapy.
What Should You Expect During TMS Treatment?
The TMS patient journey is simple and straightforward, and involves the following steps:
- Free TMS Consultation: A TMS specialist meets with the patient, responds to questions regarding treatment, and reviews his or her insurance information, past medical history, and current medications.
- TMS Intake Coordinator Checks Insurance Benefits: A TMS intake coordinator contacts the patient within two to three business days of the initial consultation to discuss his or her insurance benefits, then schedules the patient’s TMS evaluation.
- TMS Evaluation: A doctor reviews the patient’s medical history provided during the initial consultation and provides a TMS treatment recommendation. Insurance providers require a doctor’s referral for TMS treatment, so the doctor will make his or her recommendation and/or discuss other options.
- Insurance Authorization: Following the TMS evaluation, the patient is assigned an intake coordinator who submits the authorization to his or her insurance provider.
- Cortical Mapping and Daily Treatment: Once the patient is approved for TMS, his or her intake coordinator schedules a cortical mapping. During the appointment, the patient’s precise treatment coordinates are established by the physician, and a TMS technician schedules daily treatment sessions.
For each treatment session, the patient is seated in a comfortable chair. Next, a TMS device is placed on a patient’s head, which delivers pulses for the duration of the 20-minute session. The patient can relax and watch television or read. After a session is complete, the patient can then drive home or return to work.
Over the course of a TMS therapy program, re-mapping of a patient’s brain is performed. This allows the patient to enjoy the full benefits of a personalized TMS therapy program, and also ensures optimal effectiveness of treatment.
Is TMS Therapy Safe and Well-Tolerated?
TMS therapy is gentle and noninvasive, and it is designed to limit discomfort. Thus, if a patient finds that depression medication is ineffective or causes intolerable side effects, TMS is often a viable alternative. TMS therapy may also be recommended in combination with depression medication.
Most patients report no pain during their TMS treatment. Some patients who are predisposed to migraines may report mild headaches during the first week of their treatment program. Headaches typically resolve on their own after the first week, but patients can take a mild, over-the-counter pain reliever if needed.
Much in the same way that TMS therapy may be used in conjunction with medication, TMS may be utilized alongside psychotherapy. Different types of psychotherapy will help an individual identify and cope with negative behavioral and thought patterns, and also help them develop strategies and techniques to manage them better.
For those who are considering TMS, it is essential to meet with a medical practitioner to find out if you qualify for treatment. By meeting with a medical practitioner, a patient can receive insights into whether to use TMS therapy on its own or in combination with medication, psychotherapy, and/or other depression treatments. The practitioners at Achieve TMS can inform and counsel patients on this topic.
Achieve TMS is a leading provider of TMS therapy in the United States, and our medical practitioners respond to patients’ concerns regarding TMS so you can make an informed decision regarding treatment. To learn more about TMS therapy or to schedule a consultation, please contact us online, or call or text us today at 877-909-4363.