What Is Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation?

In 2017, just over 17 million people over the age in the United States had at least one major depressive episode. That means almost 7% of the adult population experienced depression that year. 

Depression can be debilitating, making it difficult or even impossible to do the things you need and want to do. Sadly, for many people, finding a treatment that works can be a difficult process. 

At Livewell TMS, our team of experts led by Dr. Nina Greif wants to help you live the best life you can. Finding a treatment plan that allows you to participate in hobbies that you enjoy, spend time with your friends and family, and attend to your health is our goal. The treatment plan we suggest may include a variety of approaches, but the one that we find the most confusion about is transcranial magnetic stimulation or TMS. This post describes what you can expect with TMS.

How it works

When you have TMS, we use a magnetic field to induce nerve cells to fire at a more normal rate.

We use a coil that sits on your scalp, and the procedure is completely noninvasive, which means you don’t even get stuck with a needle during the treatment. You can simply relax for the 20 minutes or so the procedure takes. 

The procedure doesn’t hurt, though you may feel a tapping sensation on your head. The electrical current is very mild, and the magnetic field is about the same as you would experience during magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scanning. 

Transcranial magnetic stimulation sounds scary 

If you think that TMS seems scary, you’re not alone. Plenty of patients find the treatment frightening -- until they understand more about it. 

The idea of sending an electrical current into your brain sounds like something out of science fiction. But, when it’s done under very controlled and precise circumstances, the potential benefits far outweigh the risks for most people.  

TMS has been approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) since 2008 for the treatment of major depression, and more recently for the treatment of obsessive compulsive disorder. It’s a safe procedure that has been performed on thousands of patients. 

Possible side effects

Though TMS is safe, there may be mild, temporary side effects following a session. You may have some discomfort from the coil we use to create the magnetic field, or you may feel the muscles of your scalp or face tingling or twitching. After the procedure you may have a headache or feel lightheaded. 

We perform TMS often, and our team is careful to adjust the level of stimulation to suit you. Precisely calibrating the stimulation helps avoid side effects. We may also recommend an over-the-counter pain reliever before your treatment to reduce the potential for side effects, depending on your situation. 

Does TMS work? 

Studies validate the efficacy of TMS therapy. It offers a success rate of 70%, with this majority of participants experiencing significant relief after treatment. 

At Livewell TMS, we use all of the tools available to help you control your symptoms so that you can enjoy a high quality of life. Dr. Greif may recommend a combination of therapies that include medication, TMS, or counseling.

If you’d like to learn more about TMS and how we use it, schedule an appointment at Livewell TMS today. 

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