Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation or simply known as TMS is a non-invasive, non-systemic procedure that stimulates brain nerve cells to treat Major Depressive Disorders. Generating magnetic waves similar to an MRI, TMS therapy is safe to use for everyone. This painless electromagnetic pulsed emits magnetic fields in specific parts of the brain associated with mood and behaviors.
Magnetic waves can reach into deeper parts of the brain without the use of pharmaceuticals or surgeries. TMS therapy is usually done inside the doctor’s office for about 30 to 45 minutes over a period of 4 to 6 weeks of treatment sessions. Since it does not require any surgeries, anesthesia, and hospitalization, patients can immediately go back to their daily lives following each treatment sessions.
The US Food and Drug Administration approved the use of TMS as a safe and effective treatment for depressive disorders in 2008. This painless procedure was given a nod to treat patients with resistant depression symptoms when all antidepressant treatments have failed.
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How Does TMS Work?
Majority of people suffering from depression failed to respond with the conventional medications and psychotherapies. Experts believed the region in the brain near the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex tends to be underactive while some parts of the brain remain overactive. This creates chemical imbalances within the brain structures causing some of the most common depressive symptoms. The electromagnetic pulses that TMS machine produce can penetrate deep into the brain that activates inactive brain cells while suppressing other brain regions without the use of medications and surgeries. TMS therapy is a safe and effective treatment option to stimulate the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex and treat depressive symptoms.
During a TMS procedure, health care providers placed an insulated magnetic coil over the head of the patient. It then emits magnetic pulses that stimulate brain neurons; it’s painless yet effective method of treating depression. As a non-invasive and non-systemic method, patients can immediately go on with their daily activities following the treatment session.
Why is TMS so effective?
TMS consistently produce positive changes in neuronal activity in regions of the brain often linked in mood regulation. As the magnetic waves pass through the skull painlessly and into the brain, this triggers the brief activity of brain cells directly underneath the treatment coil. Health care providers monitor the frequency and the threshold of magnetic waves as it directly influences brain activity during TMS treatment sessions. Some recent studies suggest that stimulating the left or the right sides of the brain can have opposite effects on mood regulation. That is why all patients needing TMS treatment undergoes strict and thorough medical assessment to fully identify their particular need.
When is TMS therapy recommended?
Antidepressant medications and psychotherapy remain as the first line of treatments for Major Depressive Disorders. Unfortunately, the majority of patients failed to respond accordingly to these conventional treatment methods. If patients failed several times using pharmaceuticals, then doctors may recommend TMS therapy or to combine antidepressant medications and psychotherapy. Also, patients to who cannot tolerate medications might also consider undergoing TMS therapy.
But not everyone can undergo TMS therapy, as the machine functions like an MRI, patients with metallic implants, pacemakers, bullet fragments and the likes are prohibited from using TMS. This can interfere with such metals and may cause adverse side effects.
Who will benefit the most from TMS therapy?
Numerous research and clinical data show that patients with resistant to conventional medications respond better to TMS than others. Since TMS is a simple procedure, it does not involve the use of any pharmaceuticals that are known to have severe side effects like weight gain, irritability, sleep problems, digestive problems, and sexual dysfunctions. Patients undergo TMS therapy in a very comfortable clinical setup without the stress of having these problems.
How long does it take to see results from TMS?
Each person has their own genetic make-up, the response time from TMS therapy varies from one patient to another. Some patients reported to feel a lot better than the others; they claim to experience relief within the first week of a therapy session. In some instances, patients will notice a big difference in their symptoms within the 4th week of treatment. This huge improvement has a lasting effect on the patient, the majority of patients claim that they can function better without worrying about relapses.
However, if TMS works slowly for others it does not mean it’s not effective, some people just take a little more time to readjust the brain and create new neural pathways. But the effects are the same; it relieves depression even for patients with treatment-resistant disorders.