The Biology of How TMS Therapy Works
Have you considered TMS therapy for depression, anxiety, or addiction? You might be asking how TMS therapy works. Firstly, let’s answer “what is TMS?”
TMS stands for Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation. TMS is non-invasive, using an over-the-head coil. Technicians use the coil to administer brief magnetic pulses to a specific part of the brain. Specifically, doctors call this treatment “rTMS” or repetitive TMS, since they apply pulses repeatedly in rapid succession. Physicians have used TMS therapeutically to treat depression since the 1980s.
How does TMS therapy work in treating your mental health? The magnetic pulses induce neuron activity inside the magnetic field created by the treatment coil. TMS therapy focuses on parts of the brain associated with mood or pain, such as the left prefrontal cortex.
The TMS current activate specific neurotransmitters — serotonin and dopamine. Doctors implicate the absence of these chemicals in the symptoms of depression. Furthermore, studies show that the front-left side of the brain tends to be underactive in patients with major depression. Doctors, therefore, focus TMS therapy on the left prefrontal cortex and other front-left brain areas. Activating dormant brain chemicals is how TMS therapy works.
How TMS Therapy Works During The First Session
Whether it’s TMS therapy for addiction, anxiety, or depression, your treatment plan begins with the first session. Here’s how TMS therapy works during that first session.
TMS uses magnetic pulses. As such, physicians ask patients to remove jewelry and credit cards, among other magnetism-sensitive items. TMS machines, like MRI machines, produce a loud clicking sound. Staff, therefore, provide earplugs to prevent short or long-term hearing problems.
During the first session, doctors measure your head to position the TMS coil correctly. After that, the technician suspends the coil over your scalp. The technician then finds the motor cortex of your brain to measure your motor threshold. The motor threshold is the minimum amount of power needed to make your thumb twitch. By measuring the motor threshold, the physician learns how much energy is required to stimulate your nerve cells.
After measuring the motor threshold, the physician places the coil above the patient’s treatment area. TMS patients hear a series of clicks and feel taps on their scalp under the coil during treatment.
How Does TMS Therapy Work Throughout Treatment?
Each TMS patient receives treatment tailored to their specific needs. Physicians monitor your progress throughout the entire course of treatment. As a result, the length of a TMS therapy course varies. For someone with depression, TMS therapy involves sessions five days a week for 4 to 6 weeks.
Each TMS session lasts between 20-45 minutes. Treatment times vary from patient to patient, depending on what the doctor prescribes. Initially, each session lasts 1 hour, ensuring enough time for staff to treat the patient comfortably. The length of each session may change throughout treatment, depending on the patient’s response.
As opposed to electroshock therapy, TMS therapy does not require sedation, anesthesia, or muscle relaxants. Patients can resume daily activities immediately after a TMS session.
Patients with non-removable metal in their heads should not undergo TMS therapy, with an exception for braces and dental fillings. TMS therapy is generally mild; the most common side effects are headaches.
How TMS Therapy Works For You
TMS therapy started gaining ground as a treatment method because sometimes, medicines and psychotherapy aren’t enough. TMS is an alternative for the estimated 30 percent to 50 percent of people with depression who don’t respond to antidepressants. Studies have found that 58 percent of patients showed improvement, including 37 percent who achieved full remission.
Depression, anxiety, and other mental health disorders are, in large part, a struggle against one’s brain. How does TMS therapy work for you, the patient?
How TMS therapy works for you is by offering a safe, non-intrusive way of medically treating mental illness at the source — your brain. Avoid the side effects and potential psychological dependence of pharmaceuticals. Skip the drawn-out processes of evidence-based and holistic psychotherapy.