How to Prepare for TMS Therapy

Discover how transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) can help treatment-resistant depression here.

Table of Contents

What Is Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS)?

Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) is a noninvasive outpatient treatment. It uses magnetic impulses to stimulate specific regions of the brain associated with depression. Small electric currents travel through a magnetic coil placed on the patient’s head. This induces an electrical field that stimulates local neurons.

Since 1985, researchers have studied TMS for its effects on brain cells. In 2008, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the procedure as a treatment for major depressive disorder. 1

Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (tms)

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How Is Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) Administered?

Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) is noninvasive. This means no anesthesia or procedures that involve penetrating the body (e.g., surgery, injections, incisions). Thus, technicians and physicians can administer TMS at doctor’s offices and clinics. Patients sit in a reclining chair and put on earplugs to dampen the sounds.

TMS Considerations

TMS therapy can occur four to five times per week for four to six weeks. Each session can last from a few minutes to over half an hour. Medical professionals determine the treatment plan using the following factors:

  • Age: Younger patients can tolerate higher doses and longer treatment cycles.
  • Device Type: Different types of devices provide varying levels of magnetic stimulation. Some examples are Brainsway, CloudTMS, and Neuro Star.
  • Condition Severity: Depression varies in degree, affecting the therapy’s pattern and structure.
  • Response to Treatment: Positive responses to the treatment may result in a shorter course. 

How Does Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) Differ From Other Techniques?

Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) differs from other techniques in its noninvasive nature. For instance, electroconvulsive therapy (ECT), another form of brain stimulation, requires anesthesia. ECT involves sending small electric currents to the brain. These shocks can induce convulsions and cause confusion and memory loss.

Also, TMS serves as an alternative to medication. So, patients do not have to introduce their bodies to new medications or endure their side effects.

Types of Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation

There are two types of transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), and they are classified based on the depth and speed of treatment.
  • Repetitive Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (rTMS): rTMS sends more narrow and shallow magnetic waves to the brain. This method uses a figure-eight coil, which can stimulate around 3 cm3 of brain matter.
  • Deep Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (dTMS): dTMS provides deeper and wider magnetic waves. This method uses an H-coil, allowing the waves to stimulate up to 17 cm3 of brain matter. This increases the likelihood of targeting the affected area. 

When Is Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) Used?

Professionals usually reserve transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) for treatment-resistant cases. For example, depressive symptoms that do not improve with traditional treatments, such as psychotherapy and medication, may respond better to TMS. Up to 60% of patients with depression that did not respond to medication found significant improvements with TMS.2

TMS Treatment

Research has revealed its potential to treat other disorders and conditions. These include:

  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
  • Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Chronic pain
Studies examining the effects of transcranial magnetic stimulation on OCD provided promising results. For instance, one study found that 38% of patients who received TMS showed improvements in symptom severity. As a result, the FDA approved TMS as a treatment option for OCD in 2018.3

Side Effects of TMS

Like medications and other procedures, transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) can cause side effects. Nonetheless, they are usually mild and manageable. In fact, patients can proceed with their daily activities immediately following each session. Some of the side effects of TMS include:

  • Headaches
  • Scalp discomfort
  • Facial pain
  • Lightheadedness
  • Hearing loss
  • Seizures
Patients can resolve most of these discomforts with over-the-counter analgesics or rest. Some side effects disappear altogether as the body gets familiar with the treatment. Note that TMS-induced seizures are rare. Clinical studies indicated that seizures occurred in 0.1% of participants. Further, all seizure cases were one-time, isolated incidents that lasted less than sixty seconds and did not cause adverse symptoms or conditions.4

How to Prepare for Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS)

Medical professionals develop individualized treatment plans to fit each patient’s specific needs. To get the best results, medical professionals will take the following steps:

Physical Exam

You will be required to sit in the same position for about an hour. Thus, the doctor must establish that you are fit for the procedure. Your physician may also call for some blood tests and vital signs.

Psychological Evaluation

A thorough psychological evaluation will reveal whether you are an ideal candidate. This helps to avoid complications from the wrong diagnosis. For example, transcranial magnetic stimulation can exacerbate manic symptoms in bipolar patients. Thus, mental health professionals must test and diagnose all patients before proceeding with TMS.

Patient Information Review

The doctor will review your medical history, medications, and lifestyle to ensure your treatment plan fits your needs. Here is a list of information your doctor needs to know:

  • Current or past health issues
  • Current medications
  • Sleep patterns
  • Stress factors
  • Lifestyle habits
  • Depressions treatment timeline
  • Side effects of any medications used recently

Preparation Before Your First Appointment

Prior to your first TMS session, there are some steps you can take to optimize your experience. These will be detailed below.

Learn All You Can

The best way to get the most out of any treatment is to learn about it. You can consult with your physician to discuss the treatment in detail. As a result, you will know what to expect, what questions to ask, the session procedures, the possible side effects, and the outcomes.

Declare Pertinent Information

Your doctor must know about your medical conditions, current medications, and family history. This will help the team serve you properly and determine the best course of action. You must inform your team about any metal around the head and magnet-sensitive items. Dental fillers and braces may be left in place.

Put Your Comfort First

Your doctor may suggest you bring a blanket to keep you comfortable during the procedure. You will usually be given earplugs to keep out the machine’s noise and protect your hearing. Don’t be afraid to inform the technician of any pain or discomfort during the procedure. You can bring a bottle of water and over-the-counter analgesics if you get a headache.

Develop a Strong Support Network

It’s great to have family or friends to support you during treatment whenever possible. A support system can significantly help with the treatment and recovery process. They can take you to sessions, act as people to talk to and confide in, hold you accountable, and help you in times of need.

Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) Expectations

People who opt for transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) do so after medication and individual therapy have yielded poor results or worsened their quality of life. TMS therapy is an effective alternative, void of potential side effects and risk of dependency on antidepressants.

Here are a few common advantages of transcranial magnetic stimulation:

A Great Alternative for Resistant Depression

TMS is a great option for treatment-resistant depression. Physicians recommend it because it is safe and produces long-lasting results. Patients who suffer from serious antidepressant side effects can also benefit from this procedure.

Noninvasive Procedure

Noninvasive means the procedure does not penetrate or disturb the body in any way. This procedure is carried out by placing an electromagnetic coil on the scalp.

No Sedation

With ECT, for example, patients are given general anesthesia and muscle relaxants to help them stay still during the procedure. No form of sedation is required for TMS, as the procedure is painless and safe to administer while awake.
Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (tms)

Profound Treatment TMS Services

At Profound Treatment, we strive to improve the lives of every client who enters our care. We provide a variety of treatment options to ensure each patient has access to the help they need. Some examples include transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), holistic therapies, and medication management.

Our team of experienced physicians and technicians will develop and discuss your personalized treatment plan and offer support whenever you need it. Your team will closely track your progression to alter your treatment as needed. We will confirm whether TMS is the best route for you or if you would benefit from other options, such as art therapy or medication-assisted therapy.

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Profound Treatment is here for you every step of the way. We understand recovery is not a one-size-fits-all approach. So, we work with each individual personally for the best results. Contact us today to learn more about our programs and how we can help you achieve a higher quality of life!

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