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Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) is an FDA-cleared treatment for depression. Its safety and effectiveness have been well documented for many years. TMS is one of the only non-invasive, non-pharmaceutical treatments for depression. 

TMS is not a first line treatment. Rather, it is reserved for patients who have not achieved enough relief after trying antidepressant medications and other standard treatment options.

Transcranial magnetic stimulation 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. 

Pacific Pain & Wellness Group in Torrance offers TMS and other innovative solutions 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. 

Standard Treatment Options for Depression 

Treatment-resistant depression occurs when a person does not get enough symptom relief with antidepressant medications, counseling, and other standard treatment options.

According to Harvard Medical School, depression is the most common reason for disability in people between 15 and 44 years of age. Additionally, Harvard reported that the majority of those who try antidepressants do not get relief from the first one they are prescribed. This can be very frustrating!


Antidepressant medication is usually the first line of treatment for depression. An estimated 40% of people who take antidepressants do not achieve full remission of their symptoms. When this occurs, the psychiatrist can adjust the dosage, prescribe a different medication, or add in a second medication.

There are three types of antidepressants that are most commonly used to treat depression. These include:

  1. Tricyclic antidepressants, or TCAs

  1. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, or SSRIs

  1. Selective serotonin noradrenaline reuptake inhibitors, or SNRIs  

Antidepressant medications block certain receptors in the brain from taking up neurotransmitters involved in mood regulation, such as serotonin and norepinephrine. In individuals with depression, the brain may be absorbing too much of these neurotransmitters, leaving little left for mood regulation.

Antidepressants help relieve depression by blocking the absorption process. This leaves more mood chemicals in the brain, which improves depression for some people. Unfortunately, these medications do not work for everyone.  

Psychotherapy (Counseling)

Another standard treatment for depression is psychotherapy, or one-on-one counseling with a therapist. Talk therapy is very helpful for people with depression because it focuses on targeting and changing thoughts that are maintaining symptoms or contributing to them.

Cognitive behavioral therapy, or CBT, is an evidence-based psychotherapy treatment for depression. In studies, CBT effectively improves symptoms such as negative thoughts, hopelessness, worthlessness, and excessive guilt.

Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT):

Electroconvulsive therapy, or ECT, has been used for many years to treat depression that won’t respond to medication or talk therapy. ECT treatment is not for everyone. It carries the risk of unpleasant side effects such as memory loss and impaired cognitive function. 

Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation for Treatment-Resistant Depression

As many as 30% of adults with severe depression do not feel significantly better, even after trying medications, 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.

How TMS Works

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. Rather, it only 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 Feel Like?

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.  

The first thing you will notice with TMS treatment is a loud 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. 

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.

Side Effects of TMS

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 Many Treatments Will I Need?

Treatments take under 45 minutes and are done 5 days a week for up to 6 weeks (about 30 TMS 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.

Transcranial Stimulation in Torrance – Pacific Pain & Wellness Group

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.

Call us today at (310) 437-7399.