Pros and Cons of TMS Therapy

Pros and Cons of TMS Therapy

Published: September 22, 2022

TMS therapy is becoming known for its use in improving mental health conditions. What are the pros and cons of TMS therapy?

What Is Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation Therapy?

Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) therapy is a relatively new treatmentIt uses electromagnetic pulses, which stimulate nerve cells and cause a change in brain structures. Using brief, repetitive magnetic pulses, TMS is an alternative to electroconvulsive therapy.

Magnetic fields are produced by electrical current that flows through a coil. These magnetic fields pass into the skull and produce a field of electricity underneath it. The currents stimulate and excite brain cells or neurons that are underactive, causing them to release more chemical messengers or neurotransmitters. The result is altered connectivity and communication between neurons.

An ability to "reset" pathways and communication allows transcranial magnetic stimulation to treat major depressive disorder, addiction, and other mental health disorders.

What Is TMS Used For?

While the therapy has mainly been used for treating depression, since 2013, transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) has also been used as a means to relieve pain from some migraine headaches and for the treatment of obsessive-compulsive disorder.

TMS therapy is being researched and used in clinical trials to treat other conditions, including smoking cessation, Alzheimer's disease, anxiety, Parkinson's disease, stroke rehabilitation, bipolar disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, and other mental health disorders.

Pros of TMS Therapy

TMS therapy is a specialty treatment, that allows people to receive treatment without much discomfort and risk. What are other TMS therapy pros? 

TMS Treatment in Depression

The World Health Organization (WHO) estimated that 280 million people in the world had depression in 2021. TMS therapy is primarily used to treat depression. That includes major depression.

It is most effective in people who have not responded to antidepressant medication or other traditional treatments for depression, known as treatment-resistant depression.

TMS is an FDA-approved treatment method for major depressive disorder, and more than half of patients undergoing therapy experience fewer depression symptoms, while many experience none at all. TMS therapy is a great way to treat major depressive disorder as it has seen clinical benefits without involving the use of drugs or other substances.

Outpatient Treatment

As TMS therapy only requires a person to attend appointments, a person can maintain their daily life and reside at home without much disruption. The treatment usually includes sessions five days a week for a short duration, and a person can continue the rest of the day as normal.

Insurance Coverage

As the FDA approved TMS for treating depression, the majority of TMS therapy costsare often covered by insurance companies. Some TMS centers even offer a free consultation before starting therapy. While most insurance companies, like Medicare and Tricare cover TMS, patient care coordinators will let someone know the likelihood of your insurance covering TMS therapy.

A conversation with your doctor or health care provider and your insurance provider can inform you of insurance criteria, which usually is a history of conventional treatments before attempting the therapy.

Fewer Side Effects

More pros of TMS therapy include the fact that side effects of this therapy are few, and not painful. Most patients describe TMS therapy as uncomfortable at most. Any side effects that are experienced are very short-lived.

While antidepressant medications are ingested and have diffuse and systemic reactions throughout the whole body, TMS skips this step. A wide range of side effects such as fatigue, drowsiness, nausea, memory loss, weight gain, apathy, insomnia, sexual dysfunction, and more is not present in TMS treatments. Unlike many other treatments, there have been no long-term side effects reported in TMS therapy.

High Success Rates

While traditional medication for depression can be fairly unsuccessful, especially when the first medications do not provide someone with relief, more than half of people with treatment-resistant depression have a positive response to TMS. In most patients, the benefits of TMS therapy were maintained.

No Medications Needed

There are no prescription drugs needed to undergo TMS therapy, and no medication needs to be stopped either. This means that none of the common side effects of medication are present in this therapy, so memory loss is not a concern, for example. At the same time, if someone is benefiting from psychiatric drugs, they do not need to stop taking them to receive TMS therapy.


TMS treatments do not require sedation or pain relievers, unlike electroconvulsive therapy. While magnetic fields are activating nerve cells in the front part of the brain, patients are awake and comfortable in a reclining treatment chair. TMS treatment is a non-invasive, targeted treatmentallowing a person to resume their daily routine right after treatment.

Cons of TMS Therapy

While there are many pros, there are also somecons to TMS. Even though not all TMS centers have the exact same treatment protocols, the pros of TMS treatment remain.

Time Commitment

One of the cons of TMS therapy is the time commitment. Although appointments usually last forty minutes, a person does need to attend five appointments a week for a consecutive six weeks to have the most effective therapy. Even though this may make someone have to leave work early, the short duration of the treatment usually allows patients to schedule their sessions at a time that suits them.

Side Effects

There are side effects to transcranial magnetic stimulation, even though they are considered mild. These include mild headaches, lightheadedness, skin redness where the coil is placed, and neck pain.

Most patients speak about scalp discomfort, where they have slight irritation or pain in the scalp. It is described as a tapping or knocking sensation, but scalp discomfort usually goes away after a few treatments. Other mild discomfort signs include facial twitching during treatment, usually in the form of jaw or eyebrow movement.

People may have some anxiety before or during the treatment. One of the cons of TMS therapy is a "TMS dip." This occurs more or less halfway through treatment and consists of a temporary worsening of depression or anxiety symptoms. This usually subsides after a while and it is important to know that it is temporary. 

Severe effects are very unlikely, especially with proper precautions taken. The most severe effect of TMS is probably its very low risk of seizures. When compared to many medicines used for the treatment or management of withdrawal symptoms in people with drug addictions, TMS is very safe.

Not for Everyone

Another group of cons of TMS is that it is not necessarily inclusive of absolutely everyone. It can cause complications for people who have a history of seizures or anyone who has a brain tumor. People who have bipolar disorder may experience mania when undergoing TMS. A consultation with a specialist will determine someone's candidacy for the therapy before they start.

Additionally, due to the magnetic field produced by rTMS, the therapy may be discouraged for some people with metal implants and devices. Someone with metal in or around their head, such as metal plates, stents, ocular implants, or aneurism clips may not be able to undergo TMS.

Although having a high success rate in people who are treatment resistant to depression medications, it also often excludes people who do respond to antidepressant medication. Similarly to traditional medicines, TMS does not work for absolutely everyone.

Costly Without Insurance Plans

Each insurance company has different criteria for TMS coverage. While most major insurance companies will cover the costs completely, others may not.

Some companies require that a person has tried two antidepressants previous to attempting TMS, another insurance company may require four prior antidepressants and talk therapy. Even though most health plans will help a person cover TMS therapy, it can be costly without insurance.

Where Can I Start TMS Therapy?

At GIA Chicago, we value the importance of mental wellness.With state-of-the-art facilities and cutting-edge technology, we are a mental health center specializing in TMS therapy.

TMS treatment could change your or a loved one's life, and GIA Chicago is ready to provide you with a world-class treatment experience.

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