Transcranial magnetic stimulation, or TMS therapy, has been making headlines lately as an innovative new treatment for depression. Although it’s a relatively new treatment, TMS therapy is far from experimental – research has proven that it’s an effective and safe treatment for major depressive disorder and other mental illnesses.
What you don’t know about TMS therapy may surprise you. Here are seven facts about TMS therapy that you’ve probably never heard before.
#1: TMS is effective, even when antidepressants aren’t.
Antidepressant medication is often used as the first-line treatment for depression, but only about 2/3 of patients obtain complete relief from depression no matter how many antidepressants are tried. For those patients, antidepressants simply do not work.
However, even if medication hasn’t worked for you, that doesn’t mean you need to stay depressed forever. TMS is specifically used to address treatment-resistant depression or those stubborn symptoms that won’t go away even with therapy and antidepressant medication. 50 to 60% of people who haven’t been helped by medication see improvement with TMS. Of these people, around a third reach full recovery, meaning their symptoms go away completely.
TMS can pave a way for you to reach recovery – even if your journey with medication has been disappointing.
#2: Your insurance may cover your TMS treatment to help with the costs.
If you’re diagnosed with depression, and you’ve tried to take medications before and haven’t found them helpful, then it’s likely that your insurance plan can cover at least part of the cost for TMS therapy.
At Genesis, we are in-network with:
- Blue Cross/Blue Shield
- United Healthcare
We are an out-of-network provider with all other insurance plans. Additionally, we cannot take Medicare. If treatment is still out of your budget, give us a call for information on financing options. We will do our best to make sure that you get the treatment you need.
#3: You don’t have to take medication to receive TMS.
There is research that says that TMS therapy might be more effective when combined with antidepressant medication. With that said, you don’t need to take medication to receive TMS therapy if you’ve decided it’s not for you.
On top of that, TMS therapy is generally a safe and well-tolerated treatment with little to no side effects. That means that you won’t have to undergo any anesthesia or pain medication to receive it.
Depending on your insurance plan, you may have to try a few different antidepressants before your insurers agree to cover the cost of TMS therapy. Give us a call 一 our team can answer all of your questions about eligibility.
#4: TMS is kind of like physical therapy for your brain.
When you live with depression, your brain doesn’t work like it’s supposed to. Some regions of your brain might be underactive, and the levels of certain chemicals in your brain might be unbalanced.
TMS targets certain areas of your brain that are affected by depression 一 specifically your frontal lobe. By delivering electromagnetic micropulses to stimulate these areas, it’s like your brain is getting a workout. In a sense, TMS wakes these areas of your brain up so that they start working as they should. In this way, TMS therapy is kind of like physical therapy for your brain. Physical therapy gets certain muscle groups working again; TMS therapy works on your brain.
#5: Some people complete TMS treatment and no longer need medication to treat their depression.
The effects of TMS therapy can be long-lasting 一 meaning that, ideally, even after your treatment is finished, your depression symptoms will stay away. Research studies show that, of those patients who reach complete remission of symptoms, 70% of them are still depression-free 12-18 months later. Medication can be a great tool in your arsenal for fighting depression, but after completing TMS therapy, you might find that you no longer need it.
Many people who go through TMS achieve full remission from depression and are never bothered by symptoms again. Around a third of people who benefit from TMS therapy achieve full remission (meaning that their depression symptoms disappeared completely). Other people experience a significant decrease in symptoms, and their depression becomes manageable enough to enjoy their daily lives.
There’s no clear evidence yet that tells us exactly how long the effects of TMS therapy last, but full recovery is a possibility. If you don’t like taking medication or would prefer not to take it for the rest of your life, then TMS might be worth looking into.
#6: There are fewer side effects from TMS than from antidepressants.
One of the biggest reasons why people choose to receive TMS therapy is because it’s so well-tolerated. Although some people respond well to medications, others experience terrible side effects that make it hard to continue taking the medication even when it’s effective. Common side effects for antidepressants include:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Agitation or shakiness
- Diarrhea or constipation
- Reduced sex drive
- Difficulty achieving orgasm
- Loss of appetite
- Not being able to sleep
None of these are side effects for TMS. If the side effects of antidepressants have been a problem, then TMS might be a good treatment option for you.
The common side effects that come with TMS are mild and temporary. They include:
- Neck or scalp pain
- Muscle twitching in the face
#7: TMS doesn’t require sedation, making it a non-invasive, drug-free treatment for major depressive disorder.
Some people may be concerned to start TMS because it’s a brain stimulation therapy 一 a type of treatment that’s usually associated with electroconvulsive therapy, or ECT. But although both are treatment methods that use electricity to directly stimulate the brain, there are big differences between the two.
One of the primary differences is that ECT requires you to undergo anesthesia. In contrast, you don’t need to be sedated to receive TMS 一 you don’t even need local anesthesia. It’s a non-invasive procedure, which means that you won’t be going under the knife.
TMS is safe and well-tolerated by most people. It is safe to drive yourself to a TMS treatment and home again, or to work, or wherever you need to go. Not having to be sedated means that you don’t need to be hospitalized. This also allows you to avoid the inherent risks that come along with anesthesia.
Overall, TMS has been approved as a safe, non-invasive, and drug-free treatment for major depressive disorder. No matter what your reason is for wanting to try a new treatment – whether your medication gave you too many side effects, or it simply didn’t work – TMS may be able to help.