Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) is an FDA-cleared treatment that uses magnetic fields to stimulate nerve cells in the brain to improve symptoms of depression. Its safety and effectiveness have been well documented for many years and is recommended by the American Psychiatric Association for the treatment of major depressive disorder. TMS is one of the only non-invasive, non-pharmaceutical treatments for depression. TMS uses magnets to create a pulsed magnetic field, the same technology used in magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). The TMS device focuses pulses of magnetic energy into the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex. This region of the brain is directly involved in mood regulation. 

As many as 30% of adults with severe depression do not feel significantly better, even after trying medication, psychotherapy, ECT, and other treatment options. This can leave them feeling hopeless. The good news is that TMS is a safe and effective solution for some people who have tried everything but have not gotten relief.

Pacific Pain & Wellness Group in Torrance offers TMS and other innovative solutions to to treat depression. For many of our patients with treatment-resistant depression, this is a beacon of hope. Contact us today at (310) 437-7399 to find out if TMS is right for you.

How does TMS work?

Transcranial magnetic stimulation uses magnets to create a magnetic field. This energy is transmitted through a treatment coil and focused directly into the brain. The magnetic field does not penetrate into the entire brain but rather reaches a depth of about two centimeters. The width of the treatment zone is isolated to the area directly underneath the coil. 

As this magnetic field energy moves through brain tissue, it produces electrical currents. The current turns on neurons inside of the brain that affect mood. Once those neurons are activated, they release neurotransmitters including serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine. With more of these mood-boosting chemicals present, symptoms of depression begin to subside. 

Based on the research available, about 30% of people who respond to TMS treatment achieve full remission of their symptoms for a time. Transcranial stimulation is not a quick fix, short-term treatment, or permanent solution for depression. This therapy works gradually over a period of weeks and may need to be repeated within 12 months if symptoms return.

What does TMS treatment fell like?

The first thing you will notice with TMS treatment is a clicking sound as the device creates rapid pulses of magnetic energy. Your doctor will first measure your motor threshold, which is the least amount of magnetic energy needed to cause your thumb to twitch. Getting this baseline measurement will help you gain the greatest benefit with the least amount of side effects. You will need to remove any metal jewelry or piercings. No sedation is needed; you will be fully awake and seated comfortably throughout your treatment. We will place the treatment coil on the left side of your forehead to gain access to the prefrontal cortex. This part of the brain is directly involved in depression.  

When you are ready for treatment, the coil will be placed on the front left side of your forehead. Once the treatment begins, you will feel a tapping or vibrating; this is not painful. You can sit back and relax while your treatment is administered.

Are there any side effects to TMS therapy?

Side effects with TMS are usually mild and go away as treatments continue. The most commonly reported side effect is headache. A small number of people may experience random facial twitches or scalp pain in the area where the coil was placed. Again, these side effects are usually short-lived and decrease as treatments progress.

How long does TMS take?

Treatments take under 45 minutes and are done 5 days a week over a period of 6-8 weeks (around 30 sessions). Individual responses vary, so we may prescribe you a different number of sessions. Your doctor will closely monitor your progress throughout treatment to provide optimal results.

Is TMS covered by my insurance?

TMS is fortunately covered by most insurance providers. Each company's policies may vary, however. Pre-authorizations, number of medication failures, and treater requirements may impact claim approvals. Please reach out to our office to verify your insurance coverage.

At Pacific Pain & Wellness Group, we care about you as much as you do. Our goal is to help you feel better so you can live better. Our highly skilled team is ready to tell you about TMS for depression and how it may be able to help you. If you’ve tried just about every treatment but haven’t gotten relief, transcranial stimulation may offer hope. To learn more about if TMS is right for you, please call us today at (310) 437-7399.