Most people with depression start off using talk therapy, medication, or a combination of both strategies to address their symptoms. This is often effective, and some people find that they may even fully recover from their symptoms over time. Others, however, tend to struggle with finding the right treatment.
Transcranial magnetic stimulation, or TMS, is a modern treatment designed for people who don’t find relief from more traditional types of mental health care. The treatment is based on using magnetic waves to rewire the brain, and it is often combined with other forms of therapy to provide a strong defense against the symptoms of depression.
If you’ve ever struggled with symptoms that seem to improve but then go into a major relapse soon after or find that other treatment methods don’t work, TMS therapy is worth exploring as a potential option for your care plan.
Transcranial magnetic stimulation was first developed in 1985, and it involves using a magnetic coil to create electromagnetic pulses that influence how your brain operates. The treatment is non-invasive, which means that it doesn’t require any part of the equipment to go inside your body. Instead, your therapist will place a coil outside your head. Usually, the placement occurs on the forehead, and a simple cap or another type of placement device is used to secure the coil in place.
The simplest way to understand how TMS therapy works is to understand that the brain operates using electrical activity. Once the electromagnetic coil is placed on your forehead, it will send magnetic pulses to your brain that slightly alter the electrical patterns.
Your therapist can use the coil to target the specific parts of your brain responsible for regulating your thoughts and emotions. The part of the brain that TMS treatment for depression targets is especially known for impacting how you feel pleasure. Repeated treatments help the brain rewire itself so that you feel a higher sense of general well-being.
TMS therapy’s most commonly reported side effects are mild and rarely cause long-term problems. Most people find that the treatment is painless. While the electromagnet does generate charges that penetrate your skin, most people find that it is much like receiving an x-ray. As the treatment works internally, you shouldn’t feel any strong outward symptoms.
Those who notice side effects usually report a slight headache or tingling in the face and scalp muscles afterward. Some people may notice that their sensitivity to sound increases temporarily or that they feel a little lightheaded. These symptoms go away gradually soon after the treatment is over, but you’ll want to let your therapist know if any TMS side effects remain or impact your daily activities.
Repeat treatments are not only safe, but they are the best way to use this method to find relief from treatment-resistant depression. TMS therapy for depression relies on using magnetic waves to help the brain rewire itself. During this process, it is common to experience a TMS dip after the first or second session, which is just a sign that the brain is working to create new pathways.
Repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation gives the brain time to make these important changes. You’ll want to inform your care provider about any new symptoms you notice or the return of your former ones. They’ll be able to use this information to help plan for future sessions and assist you with finding coping strategies to make it easier to get through a temporary dip in your progress.
TMS therapy for depression is usually done in an outpatient setting. Before they begin, your therapist will go over what to expect during the procedure, and they’ll have you remove any jewelry or removable outerwear that could interact with the magnets.
During the first TMS treatment session, your therapist will also take measurements of your head to help them determine the best placement for the coil. Most sessions last about 30 to 60 minutes, during which you might hear or feel some mild clicking sensations around the coil. These clicks are normal, and you can usually resume your regular activities soon after the procedure is finished and any TMS side effects have passed.
When you find yourself wanting to learn more about what is transcranial magnetic stimulation, our team at Mind Body Wellness in Franklin, TN is here to help you find answers. We specialize in taking a holistic approach to treating mental health challenges that include depression, addiction, and co-existing conditions. Finding out if TMS is right for you begins with a mental health assessment that our team will use to aid in the creation of your treatment plan.