TMS Side Effects

TMS side effects

Article Contents

What is TMS?

Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) is a treatment that promotes neurostimulation and brain stimulation to improve or eliminate symptoms of depression. One of the most typical uses for TMS for the treatment of depression is when other treatments have not been effective, due to its ability to target areas in the brain without side effects. The process of TMS therapy works with the help of stimulation, followed by repetitive wave stimulation.1

EEG Evaluation 

An electroencephalogram (EEG) is a test meant to find issues with electrical activity in the brain. By tracking brain waves and their patterns, doctors can spot issues and take steps to target those with issues for treatment.    

Magnetic Pulses 

Using a TMS device, magnetic pulses are then sent throughout the brain, stimulating the waves and promoting healthier connections in the process.  

rTMS 

Repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) is the repetition of the magnetic waves, which pulse throughout the brain and target the area that produces symptoms of depression and anxiety.    

Who Cannot get TMS therapy?

Though TMS therapy discomfort might turn some away, treatment is safe for almost everyone. There are a few patients that are urged not to get treatment and might not get approval from a medical doctor. These include: 

  • Those with metal implants or plates 
  • Patients with a known risk of seizure
  • Anyone with a tattoo with magnetic-sensitive ink
  • Patients who have stents in the neck/ brain 
  • Those with aneurysm clips 
  • Anyone with shrapnel or bullet fragments near the head 

What to Expect in TMS therapy?

For those that are new to the therapy and are wondering what to expect for their first treatment, there are a few key positive things to note. First, there are few TMS therapy side effects, with the most common being TMS therapy discomfort. While we’ll go into detail about side effects further down, let’s first look at what you can expect for your first treatment. 2

How to Prepare for TMS?

When preparing for your first TMS treatment, your doctor will likely put you through a few things including:  

Physical Exam 

The first thing your doctor will do is a physical examination which will include a brain scan. They need to make sure that you are healthy and able to receive treatments first before they start them. They will also check that you don’t have any risks that will make the treatment ineffective or unsafe, as some patients will not qualify for treatment.

Psychiatric Evaluation

After that, they will ask you a series of questions and evaluate you psychiatrically. This is also so that they have a reference as to how you are before and after treatments. One note that they will make is treatments you have had or are currently partaking in, making sure that they give you the best possible course of treatments to be effective. 

Who Administers TMS?

Once all the technical stuff is done, your doctor will then plan your course of treatment. When your first day comes, a technician will be the one to administer the treatment. They are typically supervised by a physician as well, so there will be at least two people in the room to start with.3

How Long is the Therapy?

A TMS treatment usually only lasts about twenty to fort minutes. Every person is different so doctors will need to first evaluate you then come up with the most effective course for your treatment needs. A course can run from four to six weeks, and your doctor will decide after further evaluation whether to continue with treatments.3  

Benefits of TMS Therapy

One of the biggest benefits of TMS treatment is that there are no TMS therapy side effects. Additionally, other benefits come with continued treatment, including:4

Structural Repair 

Patients who have structural issues within the brain could benefit from treatments. Because the brain waves and neurological system are stimulated, some of the structural damage can be repaired over time.

Physiological  

Brain waves and the neurological system have a lot to do with how the mind handles things. That’s why physiological changes have been noted in many cases. When the nerves connect and repair, all of those that are damaged can be repaired, causing the brain to function better and more effectively.

High Success Rate 

One of the reasons why the TMS is blowing up around the industry is that the success rate is extremely high. One of the most surprising things is that, for patients that have depression and have been unable to treat it traditionally, TMS seems to work well. The success rate has been observed with depression, anxiety, and even schizophrenia.5

Non-Invasive 

Treatment of this kind seems like it would be painful. There are no incisions made and the treatment is 100% non-invasive. Patients can go to their scheduled appointment and even make it back to work, not feeling a thing.

No Side Effects  

There are no common TMS therapy side effects. Though discomfort can happen to some, there are no other TMS therapy side effects that patients need to worry about. The very rare side effects are highly unlikely and noted for precautionary purposes.  

Non-Drug 

Many of those who suffer from depression and anxiety had only a few options for treatment, one of which was medication. The fact that patients don’t have to take pills and get adjusted to them is a huge benefit and one that only comes with TMS treatments. There’s no need to get used to drugs, balance out the dosage, or increase the dosage when they lose their effect.    

FDA Cleared

The FDA will only allow treatment if it is safe and effective. Therefore, it is significant when something is FDA-approved. TMS underwent a lot of testing beforehand, where they tried the treatment out in several conditions and with all kinds of people. The treatment got its approval in 2020, which is why it’s starting to make its way into clinics around the US and the globe.    

Covered by Most Insurance

Treatments for depression were seldomly covered by insurance at one time. Nowadays, multiple treatments are covered, and TMS therapy is one of them. That means that patients with insurance do not have to pay the entire amount out of pocket, making it an affordable option.5

Zero Downtime 

Because there is a low risk of side effects and the treatment is non-invasive, there is zero downtime. That means that patients don’t have to take time off work to get treatment and can go on about their day right after they receive their treatment.   

Possible Side Effects of TMS

Studies show that there are little to no TMS therapy side effects, which is one of the key reasons why it’s gaining a lot of attention for the treatment of depression. Though TMS treatment is said to have zero side effects, some patients may experience temporary discomfort.  

TMS Therapy Discomfort 

There is one side effect that could happen, especially during the first few treatments. This is known as TMS therapy discomfort. Those who typically have migraines may experience minor headaches after treatment, though they will likely go away within the first week.5

Rare and Adverse TMS Side Effects 

Just like any treatment, some patients may experience very rare TMS therapy side effects. Apart from TMS therapy discomfort, these side effects are rare and have only been reported in very few cases throughout the entire scope of testing. These include:

Risk of Seizure 

Because the motor cortex is directly stimulated during treatment, there is a small risk of seizures. Though it is an unlikely event, because of the possibility, those who are prone to seizures should tell their doctor.

Minor Pain 

TMS is a non-invasive treatment, which is part of the reason for the very few TMS therapy side effects. Still, because there is a device attached to the head and electrical pulses pulsing through, some patients can feel minor pain either on the spot where the machine rests or around.  

Muscle Twitching  

The electrical pulses are meant to stimulate the nervous system, which could produce minor twitching. Though it’s not common, it could happen. The twitching could happen anywhere but, because the stimulation is close to the face, it could be a cheek or brow.  

Worsening Symptoms   

Common TMS therapy side effects of discomfort could also worsen for some patients instead of getting better. It is rare for minor pain to persist but, in some cases, it has happened. Worsening of symptoms caused by depression and anxiety is also a rare side effect, something that all those considering the treatment should be aware of.

Unforeseeable Risks  

TMS therapy has been tested for several years. During that time, there have not been any outstanding side effects reported, which is why it’s taking the industry by storm. Still, everyone is different and could react to treatments differently too. There could be unforeseeable risks for some, which is why it’s important to note how you feel and be sure to talk to your doctor if you have suspicions.

  1. https://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/transcranial-magnetic-stimulation/about/pac-20384625
  2. https://www.mytransformations.com/post/what-to-expect-during-tms-therapy
  3. https://www.healthline.com/health/tms-therapy
  4. https://achievetmseast.com/benefits-of-tms-treatment/
  5. https://www.tmsbrainhealth.com/the-real-pros-and-cons-of-tms-therapy/

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