What Is TMS Therapy and How Does It Work? An In-Depth Look

3 min read

Because the technology is fairly new, many people have questions about transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) therapy:

  • What is TMS therapy?
  • What is TMS therapy used for?
  • What is the success rate of TMS therapy?

Let’s take a closer look at these questions.

What is TMS Therapy?

Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) is a non-invasive neuromodulation technique that uses electromagnetic fields to stimulate specific areas of the brain. During a TMS session, a coil is placed on the scalp, generating a rapidly changing magnetic field. This magnetic field induces a small electric current in the underlying brain tissue, which can either activate or inhibit neuronal activity, depending on the parameters used.

How does TMS Therapy work?

TMS therapy works by using electromagnetic fields to modulate the activity of specific brain regions implicated in mental health disorders. By targeting these areas, TMS aims to restore normal neural functioning and alleviate the symptoms associated with various conditions, such as depression and anxiety.

During a TMS therapy session, the patient is seated in a comfortable chair, and the magnetic coil is positioned on the scalp over the targeted brain region. The coil delivers a series of magnetic pulses for a predetermined period, usually lasting between 20-40 minutes. 

What is Deep TMS Therapy?

Deep Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (Deep TMS) is an advanced form of TMS therapy that utilizes specialized coils to penetrate more deeply into the brain, targeting specific brain regions implicated in various mental health disorders.

The key difference between traditional TMS and Deep TMS lies in the coil design. Traditional TMS utilizes a figure-8 coil, which primarily stimulates the cortical surface, while Deep TMS uses an H-coil, which allows for a more widespread and deeper penetration of the magnetic field. 

What does TMS treat?

TMS has been studied and applied in various clinical settings, primarily for the treatment of neurological and psychiatric disorders. It has shown promising results in the management of conditions such as

  • major depressive disorder
  • anxiety disorders
  • obsessive-compulsive disorder

among others. 

As we've explained in our blog, TMS is cleared by the FDA to treat the conditions listed above, and may soon be approved to treat:

  • Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS)
  • Chronic pain
  • Schizophrenia
  • Stroke

As a non-invasive, drug-free intervention, TMS offers an alternative treatment option for patients who have not responded to traditional therapies, with minimal side effects and a low-risk profile.

Is TMS therapy for anxiety?

There is reason to conclude that TMS can help anxiety. As Healthline explains, “As TMS treats psychological disorders like depression and OCD, it may also ease anxiety. That’s because these conditions often cause anxiety symptoms.” In 2021, the FDA cleared TMS technology to treat some forms of anxiety, particularly those that are comorbid with other disorders. 

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