What is TMS?

what is tms

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Explaining Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS?)

Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) is a therapy that focuses on brain stimulation. Stimulation of the brain is activated by electromagnetic pulses that wake up the nerve cells, helping to improve symptoms of neurological and mental health disorders. There are several disorders that TMS therapy is said to help with, which is why it is receiving a lot of attention to combat disorders where medication just doesn’t work. TMS is used for neurostimulation which is done in a few ways.1

EEG Evaluation

An electroencephalogram (EEG) evaluation is a measurement of the electrical activity in the brain. Because brain cells are in constant contact with each other, they are constantly producing electrical pulses, which an EEG can pick up on.  

Magnetic Pulses 

Once the electrical activity is picked up, a series of magnetic pulses are administered to the brain. They will activate a response and possibly change the interactions between brain cells, promoting new nerve connections.  

rTMS 

Repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) is a session of TMS treatment where a coil is placed on the forehead. Then, an electromagnetic machine is placed in front that delivers electrical waves that stimulate the nerve cells.

Why Receive TMS Therapy?

The fact that TMS therapy is not an invasive procedure makes it quite popular. There is no downtime, no need to take pills every day, and no healing time involved. Though there are many reasons why TMS therapy is effective, two major reasons include: 

Medication-Resistant  

For some neurological disorders, medication is not effective. Over time, taking medication each month can make the substance lose its effect, which is why patients will continuously receive stronger doses over time. With rTMS, the neurological system is targeted, where it works to rewire the connections and helping to combat resistance to medication.  

Other Therapies Not Working

When other therapies have proven ineffective, TMS has come to the rescue, stimulating the brain and helping relieve symptoms that remained with other treatments. This aspect is especially true in patients with addiction or dual diagnosis. TMS for addiction has proven highly effective and works when no other treatment does.

What to Expect in TMS therapy?

Learning that there is something out there to help relieve the symptoms of depression, anxiety, and addiction is life-changing. Still, that does not mean that new patients will not have initial doubts. If you’re looking into or expecting your first treatment soon, here is what you can expect.2

How to Prepare for TMS? 

Before recommending TMS, patients will have to first have a visit with their doctor. During that visit, patients will undergo a physical exam and a psychiatric evaluation, both of which will help doctors develop a treatment schedule and course that suits the patient.  

How Long is This Therapy?

When first starting, the therapy is recommended five days out of the week for up to six weeks. Each session is pain-free and lasts anywhere from thirty to forty minutes.3

Who Administers TMS? 

TMS therapy is administered by a technician that is highly trained. Though they do the setup and initiate the treatment, there is always a physician nearby to supervise and make sure everything is working properly throughout the entire TMS treatment.3

Who Cannot Receive TMS Therapy? 

Not everyone is clear to undergo TMS therapy. Since there are electrical pulses sent to the brain, patients with metal in their heads shouldn’t undergo the treatment. Other than that, there are a few other instances when patients should not undergo treatment, which include:  

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

Benefits of TMS Therapy

There are several benefits to TMS therapy. Though the procedure is still undergoing a lot of testing, the benefits that have been proven are substantial. Some of the most common benefits of TMS treatment include:4

Structural 

For anyone diagnosed with depression, structural abnormalities are usually present in the brain. Using TMS therapy, the neurological connections in the brain are altered and can be repaired over time.

Physiological  

Because the pulses activate the neurological system, the physiological connection in the brain is altered as well. As such, TMS for addiction is highly effective.  

Neuro Disorder treatment 

With the activation of the neurological system, the treatment works for all kinds of neurological disorders like head injuries, headaches, and even Alzheimer’s.

High Success Rate 

Among the providers that have supplied data, TMS has shown a success rate of 70% to 80%. More surprisingly, it’s reported that about 50% have complete remission and are completely relieved of symptoms of depression and anxiety after just one course.  

Non-Invasive 

Everything is set up on the outside of the body and the waves cannot be felt. The treatment is pain-free and takes just twenty to forty minutes for each treatment.

No Side Effects 

Early testing and in-field use have shown there to be no side effects. Most medications and other treatments for depression and addiction come with side effects, which is why TMS is a popular alternative.  

Non-Drug

There is never anything that needs to be ingested by the patient.  

FDA Cleared 

FDA approval of TMS treatment means that it is tried, tested, and has proven both safe and effective for treatment for several neurological disorders.    

Covered by Most Insurance

Because TMS treatment has proved effective against many disorders, many insurance companies are accepting it and will pay for the full course as recommended by a physician.  

Zero Downtime

Perhaps the best thing about TMS is that there is no downtime. TMS therapy is something that patients can come into the office for and then go back about their day, not having to deal with any downtime or take time off work.    

Conditions that TMS helps

For those considering TMS therapy, it is beneficial to know the things that a treatment of this kind can help. There is a long list of conditions that are said to improve with continued TMS therapy, including:

Chronic Pain 

Because the treatment focuses on electrical pulses sent from the nervous system, the treatment is highly effective for those that suffer from chronic pain. The neurological changes can promote healthier connections and reduce pain after the first course.

Autism 

Though it is not a cure, TMS therapy has proven to be very effective in reducing the symptoms of autism. Other therapies for autism require medication or very painful and long treatments that are not recommended for children or young adults. TMS is not only effective, but it also comes with zero downtime.

Anxiety 

Many adults suffer from anxiety and, to date, some of the most used treatments were prescription drugs. TMS therapy is an effective treatment for anxiety and can eliminate the need to take drugs, something that most patients are looking for to battle their symptoms.  

PTSD 

PTSD is a psychiatric disorder that is said to have a lot to do with neurological processes. TMS targets the neurological system and electrical connections within the brain, helping to not only repair them but also promote new and healthy ones along the way.  

Depression 

Depression is also a neurological disorder. It’s one of the most common disorders among adults, which is why TMS therapy is a good option. Before TMS approval, things like antidepressants were the first choice for treatment, even though they came with several side effects. With TMS, patients have seen an improvement of symptoms with just one cycle.  

OCD

When conducting studies, it was found that those who responded well to traditional OCD treatments highly benefitted from TMS therapy. Not only did it alleviate symptoms, but it also eliminated the need for patients to take medications and other forms of therapy altogether.

Alzheimer’s 

The fact that TMS is non-invasive makes it a great treatment for those suffering from Alzheimer’s. The treatment has been said to increase healthy brain activity and stimulate the neurological system, two things that those with Alzheimer’s suffer from. 

Parkinsons 

One area of the body highly affected by Parkinson’s is the motor system, responsible for the movement of limbs and ligaments. Those with Parkinson’s have shown extreme improvements, as brain signaling has been targeted and improved with treatments over time. 

Nicotine addiction

TMS for addiction has been increasing in popularity. Patients have undergone TMS for addiction to things like nicotine and even harder substances, which have all proven highly effective. Because TMS for addiction targets the neurological system, the symptoms of addiction improve and, in some cases, disappear completely.

Schizophrenia  

TMS therapy for schizophrenia has been studied for over 15 years. Key findings state that both negative and positive symptoms have improved and that the most significant improvement came from auditory hallucinations. Though it is not currently FDA approved for the treatment of schizophrenia, it very well could be soon, as most of the results have proven to be both effective and long-lasting.  

  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.hopkinsmedicine.org/psychiatry/specialty_areas/brain_stimulation/tms/faq_tms.html
  4. https://www.healthline.com/health/tms-therapy

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