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Is TMS Painful?

Is TMS Painful?

Published: May 10, 2022

Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) is a relatively painless procedure that can be a lifeline for clients struggling with their mental wellness. It is a safe and non-invasive procedure with fewer side effects than other treatment options.

What Is Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) Therapy?

Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) therapy is a brain stimulation therapy that uses gentle magnetic pulses to stimulate specific brain areas involved in behavior and mood regulation. By affecting activity in these cells, TMS can lead to pronounced changes in mood and behavior.

TMS is a non-invasive procedure, meaning that it does not require surgery or an incision in the skin.

TMS is an FDA-cleared treatment for anxiety and depressive symptoms in major depression and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). It is also an effective treatment for various conditions, including anxiety disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder, bipolar disorder, and addiction.

What Is rTMS?

Repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) is a type of TMS that uses trains of multiple magnetic pulses. Most mental wellness treatments use rTMS.

What Is Deep TMS?

Deep TMS treatments use specialized "H-coils" to reach deeper, broader brain areas. Deep TMS can affect brain cells involved in a broader range of mental disorders without having to increase the intensity of magnetic pulses.

What Happens During a TMS Treatment Session?

Your TMS physician places a magnetic coil over your head during a TMS session. Electricity passes through the loop, creating a painlessly magnetic field through the skin and scalp. A typical TMS session lasts 20-40 minutes.

You stay fully awake throughout the procedure and can communicate with the therapist. There is no recovery period after treatment, and you can drive to and from sessions.

What Is a "Mapping Session"?

In your first TMS treatment, your therapist must locate the target brain cells. They will move the magnetic coil over your scalp, sending out single magnetic pulses until they observe a twitch in your right hand. This happens when they locate the motor cortex, an area of the brain responsible for muscle movements, among other things.

Once they have located your motor cortex, they can find the exact location of the target brain cells. They can also find your motor threshold by sending magnetic pulses of decreasing intensity until they no longer notice a twitch.

At the end of the mapping session, your therapist may mark the location of the target cells on a white cap for use in future sessions.

Related: Does TMS Therapy cause memory loss?

What Are the Side-Effects of TMS Therapy?

TMS has relatively few side effects. The most common side effects are temporary mild headaches and mild to moderate scalp discomfort, which usually decreases as the treatment progresses.

Some clients experience twitching of the facial muscles. This side-effect is harmless and often not even noticeable to the client. Your TMS therapist may be able to reduce twitching by adjusting the magnetic coil positioning.

A small percentage of clients may notice scalp discomfort. Once again, this side-effect is temporary and tends to decrease over the treatment course. Adjustments in the position and stimulation settings of the magnetic coils may also alleviate the sensation.

TMS therapy comes with minimal risk of seizures. However, this risk is comparable to or less than other depression treatments, including antidepressant medications.

Does TMS Have Fewer Side-Effects Than Other Treatments?

TMS treatments have fewer side effects than other depression treatments, including antidepressant medications associated with nausea, weight gain, sexual dysfunction, and fatigue. It also avoids the temporary memory loss that may follow electroconvulsive therapy.

TMS may also produce longer-lasting effects than other treatments. While some people with chronic depression take antidepressant medications continually for a year or more, a standard course of TMS treatment sessions (about nine weeks) may produce a sustained response for at least a year.

How Successful Is TMS Therapy?

TMS therapy has high success rates across a range of mental disorders.

Clinical studies have found that over 50% of clients living with major depressive disorder (MDD) improve depression symptoms after a course of TMS therapy, with around 1/3 achieving complete remission.

Other trials have found that TMS can improve symptoms in 84% of people with general anxiety disorder and produce a sustained positive response in 52% of those with OCD.

As well as treating depression and other mood disorders, TMS has been shown to treat behavioral and substance addictions effectively. Studies have found that TMS can reduce daily cigarette smoking, alcohol consumption, and gambling severity.

Does TMS Hurt?

TMS is a relatively painless procedure. The only painful adverse effects are headaches, scalp discomfort, and jaw pain. These effects often only last the first few sessions and may be reduced by adjusting the stimulation settings and positioning of the helmet.

What Are Invasive and Non-Invasive Brain Stimulation Therapies?

Brain stimulation therapies involve activating areas of brain cells with electricity. They may be used to treat depression and other mental disorders.

Some examples of brain stimulation therapies are:

  • vagus nerve stimulation (VNS)
  • electroconvulsive therapy
  • magnetic seizure therapy (MST)
  • deep brain stimulation (DBS)
  • transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS)

Brain stimulation therapies can be invasive or non-invasive:

  • invasive treatments usually involve mental implants and require sedation
  • non-invasive treatments do not pierce the scalp, and the client can generally stay fully conscious throughout

TMS therapy is a non-invasive procedure, meaning no surgery or anesthetic is required. This makes TMS a relatively painless, comfortable procedure that you can fit into your daily schedule.

Might TMS Be For Me?

TMS can be a life-changing treatment for clients living with depression, addiction, and other mood and behavioral disorders. For clients who have previously not responded to other forms of treatment, TMS therapy can be a lifeline. It's evidence-based, relatively painless, and has far fewer side effects than many other treatments.

TMS therapy is usually offered on an outpatient basis so that you can fit treatment sessions around your everyday life. You can drive to and from the center, balancing TMS with other home and work responsibilities.

While it can be scary to try something new, TMS is genuinely worth considering. If you still have questions or apprehensions, contact our team at GIA Miami today. We can offer more information on how TMS works, how successful it is, and whether it's a suitable treatment for you.

Read more: Benefits of TMS Therapy

TMS Treatment at GIA Miami

At GIA Miami, we offer our clients the most up-to-date technologies from the forefront of mental wellness science. Our expert team contains world leaders in TMS and other treatment therapies with decades of collective experience. You couldn't be in better hands.

Our founder, Dr. Bonci, is a pioneer of TMS therapy, co-authoring groundbreaking papers on the application of TMS to behavioral and substance addictions. At GIA, you can personally benefit from his exceptional expertise as part of our individualized treatment programs.

We deliver our evidence-based programs with compassion and respect for the history and story of every client. Wherever you come from and for whatever reason, we're here to help you feel better.

Our treatment facilities are modern and comfortable, providing a calm atmosphere for treatment. We are conveniently located in downtown Miami, with a car park for easy access. We understand that many of our clients have busy lives and tight schedules, and we'll help you fit your recovery into your routines.

Contact us today if you are looking for support for mental health concerns or improving your cognitive performance. We'll offer expert and confidential advice and talk you through available options.

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