Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation: 4 Key TMS Benefits You Need to Know

In the constantly changing mental health landscape, medication-based treatments and talk therapy have long reigned supreme, but there are alternatives to these traditional treatments; and transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) stands as an increasingly popular option. For those grappling with depression, anxiety, or OCD and seeking alternatives to traditional treatments, TMS might just be the solution they need to live a healthier, more empowered life.

Since the 1990s, TMS for depression and anxiety has gained popularity, largely due to its non-invasive nature and beneficial side effects compared to traditional medication-based treatments. The treatment method has been shown to be twice as effective as medications or talk therapy at improving the symptoms of major depression.

In this blog, we’ll cover how TMS works, some of the reasons why it’s viewed as a preferential treatment over medication, and the steps to follow if you’re considering TMS therapy for yourself, a loved one, or a family member.

How Does TMS Therapy Work?

TMS is a therapeutic procedure that is non-invasive and uses magnetic fields to stimulate certain nerve cells in the brain, with a special focus on the nerve cells that are involved with mood control. TMS works by modulating specific functions within the brain’s neurons, mainly ones that are in the cerebral cortex. Here’s a high-level look at how it works:

  • Duration of Electrical Pulse: The electrical pulse induced in the brain by TMS is transient, typically peaking and reversing toward zero within about 200 microseconds. This rapid pulse leads to the highly synchronized activation of neurons.
  • Stimulation Area: The stimulation delivered by TMS is not confined to a tiny spot but covers a broad area—the area of effective stimulation measures several square centimeters.
  • Field Intensity: The magnetic field, which generates an electric current in the brain, diminishes swiftly as it moves away from the TMS coil. Thus, superficial cortical areas are more readily stimulated, whereas regions situated deeper within the brain require a higher threshold.

How does TMS target specific areas in the brain? In essence, TMS uses rapidly changing magnetic fields to stimulate specific brain areas, with the strength and location of the stimulation dependent on the coil’s design and positioning. While it is difficult to pin down the exact volume of tissue stimulated by a TMS coil, using a lower stimulus intensity can help achieve a more focused stimulation and minimize inadvertent activation of distant structures.

In the following sections, we’ll dive deeper into the four crucial advantages that TMS offers.

1.   Versatile Therapeutic Application

TMS is not a one-trick pony. Its potential therapeutic application spans various mental health conditions, including:

  • Treatment-resistant depression: When traditional depression treatments fail, TMS could be the turning point. For example, studies have shown that TMS can be significantly more effective at treating major depression.
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD): TMS has shown promising results in reducing the severity of OCD symptoms, while not all machines can load the OCD protocol. But recent studies have shown that 45% of TMS patients with OCD experienced a drop in symptoms within just one month of treatment.
  • Anxiety: TMS offers new hope for individuals who are struggling with anxiety and have not found relief with standard treatments.

2.   Minimal Side Effects

When it comes to safety, TMS earns brownie points. The therapy has fewer side effects compared to numerous common medications. The most common transcranial magnetic stimulation side effects include temporary headaches or discomfort at the treatment site, which are generally mild and subside over time.

3.   Non-Invasive Approach

The appeal of TMS is also heightened by its non-invasive methodology. The treatment does not require surgical interventions or implants, and the individual remains awake and responsive throughout the session. The treatment involves placing a small electromagnetic coil against the scalp near the forehead. The coil delivers a magnetic pulse that painlessly activates the nerve cells in the region of your brain that deals with mood control and depression.

4.   Customizable Treatment Schedule

The standard course of TMS therapy generally includes a series of sessions spread across several weeks. Sessions usually last 20 to 30 minutes, with patients usually attending four to five sessions per week over four to six weeks. However, this schedule can be adapted to fit individual needs and treatment responses.

Answering Your Questions About TMS

At LifeStance, we believe in empowering you with clear, actionable information as you weigh your treatment options. Below are some of the most common questions we receive regarding TMS therapy.

1.   Does TMS cause pain?

TMS typically involves minimal discomfort. While some individuals might experience slight uneasiness at the application site during the initial sessions, this sensation often diminishes over time.

2.   When can I expect to notice changes from TMS?

Each individual’s response to TMS varies. However, a significant number of patients begin to notice an uplift in their mood and a reduction in their symptoms within the first few weeks of commencing treatment. TMS stands as a strong option for empowering your mental health, especially when combined with mental health management techniques.

3.   Can I resume my regular activities after a TMS session?

Absolutely. A non-invasive treatment, TMS does not demand any recovery period. Most patients can seamlessly transition back to their daily activities immediately after a session.

4.   How much does transcranial magnetic stimulation cost and is it covered by insurance?

Transcranial magnetic stimulation cost largely depends on where you live, your healthcare provider, and how many sessions are required, along with your insurance coverage. For detailed pricing information, we recommend getting in touch with your insurance provider. LifeStance works with the majority of health care plans.

TMS treatment

Considering TMS: Your Health, Your Choice

If you have been wrestling with mental health issues, such as Depression, OCD, or Anxiety, and haven’t found satisfactory relief with traditional treatments, TMS might be a pathway worth exploring. It’s an innovative approach to mental health care that harnesses the power of magnetic fields to stimulate long-lasting, significant changes in brain function.

Yet, before making any decisions, it’s essential to have a comprehensive discussion with your healthcare provider. Contemplate the potential benefits, risks, and what you hope to achieve with TMS therapy. Remember, your health journey is yours to steer.

For a deeper understanding of TMS and to hear experiences from experts and individuals who have experienced its benefits, we invite you to listen to our podcast episode. It’s an informative session that can shed light on whether TMS could be the next step in your mental health healing.

Remember, needing help is perfectly okay, and exploring new treatment avenues is a testament to your strength. Your path toward improved mental health is a brave journey, and whether it’s through advocating healthy mental health habits or exploring breakthrough treatment options, we’re here to accompany you through every step.

Authored By 

LifeStance Health
LifeStance Health

LifeStance is a mental healthcare company focused on providing evidence-based, medically driven treatment services for children, adolescents, and adults.