Before discussing TMS for chronic pain, let’s first explore what chronic pain is. Pain is a normal response to injury. It is a sign that something is wrong and needs attention. Most pain happens quickly, and even significant pain can go away after the cause is removed or healed. However, not all pain is acute.
Chronic pain is defined as pain that lasts longer than three months, even after the original cause of the pain has healed. It is very common: the CDC estimates that about 50 million U.S. adults experience pain every year.1
Chronic pain is different depending on the cause and the individual. It can be anywhere from mild to severe. It is a daily pain for some people, while for others, it can come and go. This pain can manifest as:
Chronic pain can interrupt your daily life. More than the physical pain, other symptoms of chronic pain also include:
There are times where chronic pain appears without an apparent cause. However, most of the time, it comes from a health condition or after an injury. The most common causes of chronic pain include:
Chronic pain is largely self-diagnosed, although always check with a doctor to ensure no other underlying condition.
Chronic pain syndrome is far more than physical. Learning to handle the mental load of constant pain, as well as figuring out how to navigate life with pain, can take a cognitive load. It is common for chronic pain to take a toll on mental health.
Those with chronic pain are at an increased risk of developing an alcohol or substance use disorder as a means of coping with the pain. Chronic pain can also have an impact on other areas of emotional health, including:
There are multiple types of pain that the body can experience. Each one typically requires a different response:
Acute pain is sharp but does not last longer than six months. It typically comes on suddenly and has a definitive cause, such as:
Once the acute pain is gone, life can continue as usual. It may lead to some soreness during healing, but it does not last for a significant amount of time.
Chronic pain syndrome, on the other hand, continues even after the cause is gone. The pain signals are still active in the nervous system months or years after the original injury.
Nociceptive pain describes pain that comes from physical damage to the body. Nociceptive pain can come from
It is typically acute pain and provides warning signals to the rest of the body. For example, people know not to touch a hot pan because our nerves quickly correct that mistake! However, in some cases, it can turn into neuropathic pain.
Neuropathic pain is a pain that arises when the nervous system itself is damaged or not working correctly.
It is different from nociceptive pain in that there is no outside circumstance or stimulus that leads to the pain. It is also called nerve pain and is often chronic in nature.
Some conditions that can cause neuropathic pain include:
Depending on the cause of the chronic pain, several treatment options can help to provide relief:
Chronic pain can often impair movement and ability to function. Physical therapy can help decrease pain and inflammation and increase mobility to help you fully function. Common treatments include exercise to improve mobility and strength, ultrasounds for deep heating modality, electrical stimulation to decrease pain signals, massage for improving blood flow, and heat and ice to reduce inflammation.
A physical therapist can help you create specific goals and an actionable plan to accomplish them.
Although it can be controversial, research shows that acupuncture can be an effective treatment with wide clinical practice. Acupuncture works by inserting hair-thin needs into specific points in the skin around the body. When done correctly by an experienced practitioner, it is virtually painless.2
Acupuncture has long been used in Traditional Chinese Medicine to correct imbalances within the body. Many western researchers believe that it might be able to relieve pain by affecting neurotransmitters, decreasing inflammation and hormone levels in the body.
While professional help can facilitate healing, taking control of your health can also bring significant relief. Some lifestyle changes that can help improve chronic pain include:
Chronic pain syndrome can make relaxation challenging. Tense muscles and anxiety are just a couple of symptoms of chronic pain that can interfere with relaxation. However, relaxation exercises can help you manage your chronic pain. It can help lower stress hormones in the body, relax the tension that can make the pain even worse, and help counteract the impact of stress.
Some pain management techniques in relaxation therapy include Box breathing, guided imagery, hypnosis, meditation, and guided imagery.
While these therapies can all be effective for many people, others still experience chronic pain. Transcranial magnetic stimulation could help. Also called TMS treatment or rTMS (for repetitive TMS) is a form of therapy that uses neurostimulation to help facilitate healing in the brain. TMS for pain relief could help those who still experience pain even after trying other treatments.
For those whose alternative treatments have failed, TMS for pain can provide some help.
The average person using TMS for pain has somewhere between 25-30 sessions, depending on their unique needs. Each TMS treatment takes about 30-40 minutes.
Many start to see improvements in the first couple of weeks, depending on the severity and type of pain.
To make sure that rTMS is a positive experience and an effective option, you will need to complete a physical exam, as well as other lab tests. In addition, you will also need a psychiatric evaluation.
TMS for pain is usually performed at a specialist’s office under a qualified physician or TMS technician
While TMS for pain is a relatively safe and non-invasive therapy, it is not for everyone. Those who should not have treatment include:4
Always speak with your doctor about any other medication or supplements you are taking before starting TMS for pain.
TMS for pain can offer many benefits for those who have chronic pain. TMS therapy is especially useful for those who haven’t responded to other forms of treatment. Because it focuses on reforming that altering the structures in the brain, rTMS can help facilitate lasting change. Some other benefits include:5
For those who need help with pain management, TMS therapy can provide valuable relief!