Back to Health

The 411 on TMS

Brain stimulation may hold key to combating depression

Depression, PTSD and anxiety are common problems military face. TMS may be a solution. Photo credit: Stock photo

Email Article Print Article Share on Facebook Share on Reddit Share on StumbleUpon

Transcranial magnetic stimulation, or TMS, is a noninvasive method of brain stimulation therapy that uses electromagnetic pulses to stimulate nerve cells.

Primarily used to treat depression, TMS has helped individuals who do not respond to antidepressant medication and psychotherapy. In 2008 the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved TMS for this purpose.

How TMS Therapy Works

Prescribed by a physician, TMS is conducted by a trained medical person on an outpatient basis.

After intake, a patient is seated in a chair and given a pair of earplugs. A magnetic coil is then placed on their head above the front area of the brain.

There will be a clicking sound (hence the ear plugs) as the magnetic impulses are released. The patient will also feel a tapping or knocking sensation beneath the coil.

Treatment can last from 30 to 60 minutes.  Afterwards, individuals can immediately resume normal activities.

The procedure is repeated five days a week for between four to six weeks.

When TMS is Used

Ideal candidates for TMS have used one or more antidepressants without result; have experienced negative side effects from antidepressants or are a child or teenager.

Children/teenagers are considered good candidates because they are prone to developing adverse side effects from antidepressants.

TMS Therapy Benefits

Still a growing area of research, a 2015 study found that depression is linked to reduced activity in the prefrontal cortex. TMS may help by stimulating nerve cells and increasing activity in this area of the brain.

Further research suggests that TMS may be helpful in treating obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), stroke rehabilitation, schizophrenia, Parkinson's disease, autism spectrum disorder (ASD), Alzheimer's disease, chronic pain, nicotine addiction, and multiple sclerosis.

It should be remembered that TMS therapy has been studied primarily as a treatment for depression, that the success rate is promising, but that approximately 30 percent of individuals with depression do not respond to these treatments.

Side Effects of TMS

Side effects are rare; however, some have been noted:

Mild headaches (most common), lightheadedness, scalp pain, neck pain, tingling, facial twitching, sleepiness, and altered cognition during treatment.

Headaches and lightheadedness usually disappear after several treatments. 

There is a 0.1 percent risk of developing seizures during a course of TMS therapy.

Who Should Avoid TMS Treatment?

Person with the following should not undergo TMS: deep brain stimulators, electrodes, neck or brain stents, aneurysm clips or coils, shrapnel or bullet pieces, facial tattoos with metallic ink, metal plates, cochlear implants, and permanent piercings.

Cost Of TMS

One course costs between $6,000 to $12,000 out of pocket, however for local military, you can use your Tricare benefits. 

If antidepressants and psychotherapy do not work, Medicare will also cover TMS therapy.

In the greater Olympia area, consider Olympia TMS at (360) 539-1736 or


Read next close

Military Life

To care is to lead

comments powered by Disqus