Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) “is a noninvasive procedure that uses magnetic fields to stimulate nerve cells in the brain to improve symptoms of depression.” 1 This treatment is used for several types of mental health disorders such as depression, anxiety, and obsessive-compulsive disorder. There are multiple steps to transcranial magnetic stimulation, so it is vital to understand everything about it before discussing it with your physician.
Electroencephalograms (EEG) are used to find problems related to electrical activity in the brain. 2 During this process, the doctor will do an EEG to record different electrical brain wave patterns that are going on. They will place wires onto your scalp, which will then send signals back. This allows the doctor to see what areas of your brain are seeing abnormal activity or lack thereof.
After this first step, TMS treatment will start. The way treatment works are by a doctor placing an electromagnetic coil against your scalp. It will then send magnetic pulses to stimulate specific parts of the brain. Many times, it will be the prefrontal cortex and other areas that affect mood. These magnetic pulses will be performed repeatedly to provide stimulation to the afflicted or abnormal areas.
Repetitive TMS (rTMS) sessions will then take place. During these sessions, the doctor will continue to send magnetic pulses to the brain to help stimulate it. Because it is noninvasive and painless, no anesthesia is needed. RTMS sessions will be individualized to help the specific patient with whatever they are struggling with. These sessions are nearly daily and happen over several weeks.
When you first start TMS therapy, you can expect to have a slightly different appointment at first. Your doctor will perform an EEG and thorough analysis of your brain, symptoms, and disorders. They will most likely use the electromagnetic coil to see how your body and mind respond to the magnetic pulses. There might be some slight twitching, so do not be alarmed if that happens. 3
TMS therapy normally occurs five days a week for four to six weeks. Each appointment takes less than an hour and there is no recovery time, so you will be able to drive home right after. Some individual treatment plans may vary, but it normally falls within these ranges.
One of the best ways you can prepare for TMS is by having honest conversations with your doctor. Let them know if you are pregnant or trying to become pregnant, if you have any metal within your body, what the treatment plan would be specifically for you, any medications you take, and any other disorders you might have.
Before starting TMS therapy, your doctor might do a thorough physical exam to make sure there is not anything that might inhibit treatment or cause severe damage to you. During this phase, make sure to be completely transparent with your health care physician. Let them know about anything that might interfere with the treatment. If you are unsure of something, please tell your doctor. The more information they have, the better they can treat you.
Your doctor will also do an extensive psychiatric evaluation. One benefit of this evaluation is that your doctor will be able to make sure that you are mentally able to handle the treatment plan. Moreover, they will be able to check for other mental health disorders that they could potentially target with the treatment as well. As with the physical exam, make sure that you are completely transparent with your doctor so they can best assist you and keep you safe.
Who Administers TMS?
FTMS is administered by your health care physician and/or a licensed TMS technician. They will monitor you closely during every treatment to make sure everything goes okay. If there is ever a point that you need to stop treatment during a session, you can let them know.
There are several benefits to TMS therapy. Although it is normally a treatment option that is used after medication and therapy have been unsuccessful with a patient, it has produced amazing results. Here are some of its benefits. 4
TMS treatment is very much focused on the individual and what treatment plan is best for them. The doctor will ask you several questions and test out many things to see what specific things need to be addressed during rTMS sessions. This is one unique feature of TMS therapy, which leads to it being more successful.
Since TMS is primarily focused on mental health disorders, it helps with how a person functions in daily life. Since it stimulates the parts of the brain that have been negatively impacted by things like depression and anxiety, TMS can help ease a lot of symptoms, allowing a person to enjoy life.
The treatment is non-invasive, which means it is rather painless and does not require surgery.
There are not any real side effects of TMS therapy. There are some reports of headaches after treatment, and in very rare instances, it can trigger a seizure. However, most patients do not have any side effects. There are fewer side effects when compared to medication, too, which also makes TMS a beneficial treatment method.
One of the most significant benefits is that TMS treatment does not require any drugs. It is great for patients that may struggle with substance use disorder or do not want to take medication. However, many doctors will have their patients participate in TMS treatment while continuing to take their prescribed medication.
TMS is an FDA-approved way of treatment. This approval shows that it is safe, effective, and a good alternative to other methods. Currently, TMS treatment is officially approved for severe depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and some forms of anxiety.
There is no recovery time after treatment. Although you do have to go to treatment five times a week, there is no recovery time. Therefore, you can go back to school, work, or home right away.
Before its popularization, TMS therapy cost about $100 per session. This would lead to the entire process costing around $3,000. However, it has become a lot more reasonable due to insurance.
Today, most major insurance companies cover TMS treatment. This coverage makes TMS sessions more affordable. Companies like Blue Cross Blue Shield, Aetna, Medicare, and Cigna pay more than they used to, which has led to a decrease in costs. Overall, it is a very affordable non-invasive method to help with the most aggressive forms of any mental health or neurological disorder. 5
There are a few requirements though before an insurance company will pay for TMS treatment. Normally, TMS will take place after someone has tried between two to four different antidepressants.5 If you are not sure what your health insurance allows, make sure to contact them about your deductible, plan, and the specifics of what you’ve used so far to help treat your mental health disorder.
Most insurance companies will require a minimum of two months of psychotherapy. Additionally, doctors like to take time with an antidepressant medication before determining that it is not working. This can take months or even a year or two to get through four different medications. Hopefully, it will not come to TMS treatment, but if it does, the treatment is very affordable and worth it.
There might be some other conditions as well based on your specific policy. Some of these could be how much you have left on your deductible, the kinds of medication you took, the therapist you went to, etc. It is important to talk to your insurance provider to see if TMS therapy is an option that they will cover.
TMS therapy is a very effective treatment for neuro disorders. TMS treatment options are very affordable once you have met the requirements of your insurance company. If they won’t cover it, the TMS therapy cost normally comes out to around $3,000. If you have any questions or are curious if TMS treatment is right for you, make sure to reach out to your healthcare provider.