Can Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation Help With Depression?

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One of the most common causes of disability is depression. Individuals suffering from depression can get better through different treatment methods like taking antidepressants pills and enrolling in a therapy session (psychotherapy). However, these typical treatments cannot work for every patient who tries them. 

Furthermore, metal health treatments often come with some side effects. Some patients can’t see any symptom improvement after the therapy sessions or withstand the side effects of depression medication like: 

  • Headache
  • Loss of appetite
  • Erectile dysfunction
  • Dizziness
  • Constipation
  • Feeling shaky or agitated

Therefore, there is a need for an alternative treatment to help people suffering from depression: transcranial magnetic stimulation therapy.

What is TMS therapy

Transcranial magnetic stimulation is a non-invasive procedure to stimulate brain nerve cells by using the magnetic field to improve depression symptoms. Transcranial magnetic stimulation is mostly used when other treatments have failed. This depression treatment involves the repetitive application of magnetic pulse hence the name rTMS or repetitive TMS.

TMS treatment is also a drug-free depression treatment. Based on the studies conducted on patients using transcranial magnetic stimulation therapy, 50% of patients with resistance depression experience symptoms improvement after the session. After this therapy session, the results you get cannot last forever, but it can improve your life quality for a few months.

Benefits of transcranial magnetic stimulation therapy

Transcranial magnetic stimulation offers great benefits for major depressive disorder. Below are the advantages of TMS treatment.

  • It is non-invasive. The treatment stimulates brain neurons and the underlying pain.
  • TMS does not require any anesthetics. Therefore, you will remain awake throughout the process.
  • No need to be hospitalized. After the therapy, you will continue with your everyday life activities.
  • TMS therapy is a proven treatment to treat major depressive disorders.

How does TMS treatment work?

An electromagnetic coil is held near your forehead against the scalp. The electromagnetic pulses work without inflicting any pain by delivering a magnetic pulse to stimulate your nerve cells. The magnetic pulse only works in the brain region that involves depression and mood control.

It is believed to activate brain regions that have low depression activity. The whole biology of how TMS works is not understood perfectly, but the induced stimulation impacts brain working activities. In return, the process improves mood and eases depression symptoms. The treatment can be administered in different ways, depending on the expert.

What to expect from transcranial magnetic stimulation therapy

Repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation therapy can be done in a clinic or doctor’s office. The process requires a couple of treatment sessions to work effectively, with most clinics carrying out the sessions five times a week for 4 – 6 weeks.

Your first treatment

The first time you go for TMS therapy, the doctor will need to determine the best place on your head to start from and place the electromagnet. Also, the doctor needs to identify the right magnetic energy dose for you. Therefore, your first appointment can last as long as 60 minutes.

You will be given earplugs and asked to sit down throughout the procedure. The electromagnetic coil will repeatedly be switched on and off once placed against your head. 

You will experience clicking or tapping sound and sensation on your forehead for a few seconds then it will end. The doctor will increase the electromagnetic dose gradually until your hands or fingers twitch.

During the treatment

You will be ready to begin after the coil is placed successfully against your head and the dose is identified. Throughout the process, you will be seated with earplugs and a magnetic coil on your head.

The procedure can last 40 to 60 minutes, during which time you will be awake and alert. You may feel some discomfort on your scalp during the treatment, but it won’t last long.

After the treatment

You can go back to your usual daily activities after the procedure or get some rest. Between each treatment, you can drive and work normally. You may be recommended for standard depression care like psychotherapy and medication after TMS.

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