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What are TMS Centers? – Everything You Need to Know

Woman reflecting on her depression in need of a TMS center

When depression doesn’t respond to treatment with a safe dose of drugs, non-medication options such as TMS may be the solution you’re looking for. Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) is an effective, non-invasive, and FDA-approved treatment option for severe depression.

This relatively new technology is at the forefront of depression treatment.

What Is TMS Therapy?

Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) is a form of brain stimulation that uses short bursts of magnetic pulses to stimulate specific areas of the brain. The brain operates on electricity, so the magnetic pulses induce tiny electrical currents that excite the targeted area.

This advanced treatment can be carefully controlled by increasing the strength and frequency of the magnetic pulses. The treatment doesn’t require craniotomy or any kind of surgery. Instead, an electromagnetic coil is placed on the scalp, creating a magnetic field that penetrates bone and flesh.

The magnetic field generated by the coil produces the same magnetic strength as that of an MRI machine. For the treatment of depression, the magnetic pulses are administered in quick succession to deliver one to 10 pulses a second, or about 3,000 pulses in total for each session. 

The treatment is treated five days a week for several weeks, which is why this treatment is also known as repetitive TMS or rTMS. TMS therapy is an effective and essential alternative to electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) and vagus nerve stimulation, both of which require surgery.

Why TMS Therapy Is Beneficial

TMS therapy works by producing changes in the activity of brain regions associated with mood regulation, which is the prefrontal cortex. Each burst of activity excites the prefrontal cortex by changing its electrical firing patterns and regulating them.

The biology of how TMS treatment works isn’t completely understood. However, researchers know that repeated therapy influences the prefrontal cortex and helps to break the cycle of depression, providing relief for patients.

Studies have shown that TMS treatment has “significant antidepressant effects” and improves all symptoms of depression. Another study on the long-term effectiveness of TMS in treating depression found that 58% of participants were in remission by the third month of treatment.

TMS Helps the Brain Self-Regulate

Medical experts know that patients diagnosed with major depressive disorder (MDD) display abnormally low prefrontal cortex activity in brain scans. It is thought that stress and other negative stimuli disrupt a mechanism known as neural plasticity. 

Neural plasticity refers to the brain’s natural ability to change and restore normal function despite negative stimuli. Like antidepressant medication, TMS stimulates the affected brain regions and restores neural plasticity.

However, these changes are usually not permanent. Studies suggest that up to 50% of patients retain the effects of the treatment after 12 months, but patients can still relapse. Doctors may recommend that patients repeat TMS treatment, continue taking medication, or manage depression with lifestyle changes such as exercise and diet.

TMS Therapy Near Los Angeles and Orange County

TMS involves much more than magnetic stimulation. First, a therapist needs to review the patient’s medical history and perform tests to determine if they’re eligible for the procedure. This requires exceptional training and dedication, which Acera Health provides.

Acera Health is a mental health treatment center based in Orange County. We provide luxury residential services and outpatient treatment options for depression, addiction, and other mental disorders.

TMS therapy is one of our most advanced treatment options for severe depression. However, we also offer other depression treatment options, such as:

  • Psychotherapy, including Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
  • Medication 
  • Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT)

That being said, TMS therapy is one of our most progressive treatments for depression due to its effectiveness and low risk of side effects.

What Can TMS Treat?

Although the FDA cleared TMS in 2008 for treating depression only, it can also be used for many other conditions. These include:

  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
  • Migraines
  • Chronic pain
  • Smoking/nicotine addiction
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD)
  • Parkinson’s Disease
  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

Research is ongoing into these and many other applications. However, doctors may be able to apply TMS in special cases after careful evaluation.

What to Expect at a TMS Center

TMS requires repetitive treatment, usually five days a week over several weeks. Each treatment session takes anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour, but it is an outpatient procedure. You will be able to return to your daily schedule immediately afterward.

What Happens During a TMS Procedure

Once a patient is approved for the procedure, the rest of it is easy. In the first visit, we measure the patient’s head to determine the right place to place the TMS coil. 

We also measure the minimum amount of stimulation necessary to make the patient’s thumb twitch, called their motor threshold. This measurement helps us determine the right amount of power to apply. 

Before the procedure, the patient must also remove all metal jewelry and objects and wear ear protection. The magnet can make high-pitched sounds like MRI machines, so ear protection is mandatory.

From there, a qualified therapist attaches an electrode with a magnetic coil to the patient’s head. The patient lies in a comfortable recliner chair and will be awake during the session since no anesthesia is needed. The therapist programs the machine to deliver magnetic pulses at the right power and frequency while monitoring the patient.

The patient may feel a tapping sensation at first as the therapist adjusts the pulse strength and pattern. They will also hear clicking sounds as the magnet turns on and off. There will be pauses between treatments to give the magnet and the patient a break.

Subsequent procedures will be very similar to the first one. However, the therapist may make a few adjustments based on the patient’s progress and side effects. TMS usually has zero or minimal side effects, including headaches, dizziness or lightheadedness, facial tingling, and ringing in the ears.

Start Your Healing at Acera Health

Up to 30% of patients diagnosed with major depressive disorder do not respond to anti-depression treatments. TMS therapy holds much promise for such people, especially given its high effectiveness and low risks.

If you or a loved one suffers from severe depression, the team here at Acera Health can help you. We’re experts at depression treatment using various methods. Call Acera health now and start the journey to wellness for the mind, body, and soul.


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