Over the past few years, there are several studies indicating the efficacy of Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation or TMS as an alternative depression treatment.
Researchers at Butler Hospital along with the collaboration of different clinics in the US confirmed the efficacy of TMS treatment for patients with depression who were unsuccessful on their antidepressant medications. Their finding is one of many first studies who delved into the use of TMS treatment. It was published on June 11, 2012 edition of Depression and Anxiety in the Wiley Online Library.
How did TMS Start?
Anthony Baker introduced TMS in 1985 at the University of Sheffield in England. It was intended as a neurodiagnostic tool used to produce an evoked potential in muscle tissue by activating neurons in the motor cortex. The whole concept of TMS was based on the two basic principles of physics; Faraday’s principle of electromagnetic induction and Ampere’s law.
Faraday’s principle involves the use of electromagnetic induction and that voltage can be measured and changed when generated across a length of wire – if the wire was left exposed to a perpendicular magnetic field flux of alternating intensity. Also, Ampere’s law state that the magnetic field can be managed around an electric current is proportional to the electric current.
TMS principle revolves around this principle. The stimulation coil consists of several wire loops encased in an insulating material. According to Kobayashi M, Pascual-Leone A. in Transcranial magnetic stimulation in neurology, “If a pulse of current is passed through this coil and placed over a person’s head, it produces rapidly changing magnetic pulses that penetrate the scalp and skull and reach the brain with minimal attenuation.”
Because of this, TMS can emit rapid and powerful but painless magnetic field that stimulates brain nerve cells. In doing so, it activates inactive region in the brain associated with depression.
Since its introduction in 1985, TMS had been studied as an alternative treatment for various mental disorders. Several studies show that TMS can be an effective treatment for major depression, Tourette syndrome, reducing auditory hallucinations in patients with schizophrenia, and obsessive-compulsive disorder. There a lot of evidence showing the efficacy of TMS in psychiatry.
Another Form of Electromagnetic Treatment
However, TMS was not the first treatment introduced that uses electromagnetic pulses. It was Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) that was first used in 1938 which also show the significant result in treating major depression. Unfortunately, ECT uses an invasive method like anesthesia which resulted in severe side effects. It soon loses its popularity amongst patients with depressive disorders.
ECT remains one of the most controversial forms of treatment in the entire field medical science. It’s a love and hate relationships. But one film stands out in providing a wide range of people about the use ECT. The film “One Flew over Cuckoo’s Nest”, shows how crude treatment method ECT can get. Even though ECT can also effectively treat depressive symptoms, there has been a steady decline of its use in clinical psychiatry clinics.
A Safer Treatment Method
About 16.1 million people suffer from depressive disorders across the US. Depression is a serious illness affecting 350 million people worldwide; it’s becoming the largest health problem in the world. The medical community had developed medications and treatment plan to help manage its symptoms but there are patients who do not respond positively to these. Using medications often entails adverse side effects like tolerance and drug addiction.
The approval of FDA for TMS had cleared the TMS brain-stimulating device for treating depressive disorder to patients where antidepressant has failed to work. TMS brings new hope and vitality to patients and their families wherein it shows better results than the conventional treatment plan. It has far lesser and fewer side effects, some does not even experience and adverse reaction to TMS procedure.
TMS procedure shows its efficacy to over 24,000 people suffering from depressive disorder. About 1 out of 3 people have experienced complete remission from depression. While 50% of patients reported having significant reductions in their symptoms. The American Psychiatric Association also supports the use of TMS for patients who develop tolerance over their antidepressant medications. They suggest that medical professionals should consider TMS as a form of treatment rather than changing from one antidepressant to the other. Using antidepressant medications often lead to drug addiction.
One study conducted by Garcia-Toro M, Mayol A, Arnillas H, et al in their book entitled “Modest adjunctive benefit with transcranial magnetic stimulation in medication-resistant depression” shows that TMS can treat depression symptoms as effectively as any antidepressant medications.
Clinical depression remains the topmost health problem in the US and affects more than 40 million adults each year. Major Depressive Disorder is the leading cause of disability and is more prevalent in women than in men. Around 75% of people suffering from mental disorders remain untreated in developing countries. It’s a growing mental illness worldwide as pharmaceutical companies race to develop new drugs for the treatment of common depressive disorders. The medical community continues to search for new and safer alternative therapies, which eventually led to Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation.
Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation was first developed in 1985, and was considered safe for treating various disorders. It received a monumental step by getting the US Food and Drug Administration approval in 2008 as an alternative treatment for Major Depressive Disorder. As a non-invasive and non-systemic procedure with minimal side effects, health care providers consider TMS as a safe and effective treatment for depression.
TMS is Safe and Easy
Compare to conventional depression treatment which requires taking prescription drugs, TMS therapy has not been associated with undesirable side effects like addiction. Patients will not experience excruciating side effects like sleep problems, digestive problems, anxiety, and sexual dysfunction. Most patients can only feel mild to moderate temporary discomfort at the site of the coil following the first round of treatment.
Doctors and experts can confirm that TMS therapy is a safe and effective alternative treatment for Major Depressive Disorders. And because of it’s continued success, there a number of on-going studies experimenting with TMS as another form of treatment for various diseases.
It’s a proven safe technique for all patients; TMS is gaining popularity across the globe. As an FDA-cleared method, TMS consistently show its efficacy in treating other health problems like PTSD, stroke, anxiety, autism spectrum disorder, eating disorder, even as pain management.
A Good Alternative to Prescription Medications
TMS is a non-invasive and non-systemic technique that has lasting positive effects. Even with patients who failed to respond to previous prescription medications and psychotherapies. This relatively new technique targets the brain area associated with depression. It regulates brain chemistry thus promoting a well and balance activity in the brain.
It uses electromagnetic pulses similar to MRI and precisely targets the prefrontal cortex of the brain. This helps to regulate the mind’s unique electrical activity. TMS can activate inactive brain cells while suppressing overactive regions without the use of any antidepressant drugs.
Prescription Drugs’ Adverse Side Effects
Using prescription drugs and antidepressants may work for about a fraction of people suffering from Major Depressive Disorders. Sadly, the majority of the patients do not respond to these medications and its long-term effectiveness, side effects, and costs are some of the downfalls of antidepressants. But the biggest concerns in taking prescription drugs are the debilitating consequences. Experts estimate about 70% of people who tried alternative therapies like TMS have a better chance of recovery and beating depression, in the long run, compared to taking medications.
TMS directly stimulates brain neurons and in building new neurotransmitters to release ‘happy hormones’ within the brain structure. The technique jump starts the brain in having the natural action of regulating its structure and chemistry. Even without any prescription drugs and medications involved, it does not illicit major side effects of addiction and drug overdose. Patients can undergo TMS therapy without the fear of having to take medications or undergo major surgeries.
Health care providers use TMS therapy as a long-term preventive measure for depression relapse, one of its biggest advantages. TMS therapy stimulates the brain in keeping those newly formed neural pathways linked together for the life of the patient.
TMS Side Effects
There are certain side effects that patient may experience during TMS procedure, but these are just minor health concerns. Since the TMS machine function like an MRI, some of its side effects are related to later like headaches and dizziness. Some may experience slight tingling sensation at the site but will eventually subside following the therapy.
However, patients with metallic implants, cochlear implants, pacemakers, bullet fragments, and the likes are prohibited from using TMS therapy. Patients kept fully awake during each session which may last for about 40 minutes in five times a week over the course of four to six weeks of treatment. Since it’s done inside a doctor’s office without any anesthesia or surgery involved, patients can immediately go back to their daily tasks following the treatment.
Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) is a non-invasive strategy that helps depressed people. With the electromagnetic pulses of TMS, depression’s symptoms are relieved. People with depression can finally retain their ability to feel good again. Because of this, TMS is an excellent treatment method for those who are unsatisfied with antidepressants. Many people see bad side effects with their medication, which leads to them finding their medications to be risky. TMS is less harmful because it’s non-invasive and doesn’t use chemicals. But is it safe? Let’s find out in the article below.
One good reason to trust TMS is because of its FDA approval, which cleared the treatment method as a safe way to help those with depression. The fact that it’s non-invasive also helps, too, particularly since it’s also proven to be effective in relieving people of depressive symptoms.
It may also be helpful to know that many people already tried TMS. Many who experience anxiety, stroke, autism, and anorexia have found TMS a useful tool. They will vouch for its effectivity in relieving emotional pain and turmoil, helping treat anorexia, and more.
No Long-Term Side Effects
It’s also easy to file TMS under the Safe Folder because of the absence of long-term side effects. Other treatments pose a lot of threats, but not TMS. You won’t experience digestive problems or any sleep disruption after treatment. The majority of patients only feel a moderate, albeit temporary discomfort. These side effects go away after the first week.
There have been no reports of people experiencing unsightly side effects from TMS. This doesn’t mean, though, that TMS is for everyone. You should still be careful. Anything that you do to your body may have hidden risks. Talk to your doctor first before deciding whether this is for you.
It’s also reported that TMS will not make you feel the side effects from chemical medication. With TMS, you won’t feel abnormal ejaculation, impotence, constipation or diarrhea. These symptoms normally occur in other types of treatment. Not with the reports found for TMS.
There’s a lot of studies done already on TMS. All of them show considerable promise. All of them also prove how much there is to know about the treatment. What’s certain for now is that the clinical trials done showed modest results. This means that you can’t expect TMS to be the first option in treating depression. Always contact your doctor first before deciding on this method. You may end up doing more harm to your body by undergoing a treatment you can avoid, no matter its safety record. It’s more rational to decide first whether a healthy diet and exercise can help you.
It is also safe to say that under controlled conditions, TMS is safe to use. But, it’s important for patients to understand that TMS should be used when nothing else works. It’s also important to take in as much information about any depression treatment before making a decision. This time invested can help you decide if TMS is right for you.
With that, the answer to the main question is: yes, TMS is safe, but under supervision with a doctor. There’s still more research to be done about TMS. The best thing to do is to be updated with these studies. Decide based on what is less risky for you. Decide also under the guidance of a health professional.