What are the Side Effects of TMS?

What are the Side Effects of TMS?

Many people suffering from major depressive disorder (MDD) consider trying transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) therapy because of the unpleasant side effects they experienced while treated with antidepressant medications.

These drugs commonly cause weight gain, irritability, sexual dysfunction, sleep disturbance, nausea, constipation, and fatigue.  As if the many side effects weren’t bad enough, antidepressants fail to relieve the symptoms of depression in up to half of patients.

TMS, the state-of-the-art depression treatment method approved by the FDA in 2008, is consistently demonstrating excellent results in treating MDD.  TMS is a brain stimulation therapy that uses magnetic fields to deliver targeted electrical currents to the left prefrontal cortex.  By stimulating the underactive neurons in the mood center of the brain, TMS releases neurotransmitters and rebalances brain chemistry.  Over a few weeks of treatment, TMS therapy can improve sleep quality, concentration, and overall mood with few to minimal side effects.

A Typical TMS Treatment Session

Once the mental health practitioner has determined a patient to be a good candidate for TMS therapy they will be prescribed a series of five sessions per week for 4-6 weeks.   Standard TMS therapy is slightly different from deep TMS (dTMS), as dTMS sessions are about half the length (20 minutes) of standard TMS (approximately 40 minutes).  The currents produced by the technology travel about 2.5 cm into the brain with standard TMS, versus a depth of 6 cm with dTMS.

The patient is fully alert when receiving treatment while seated in a comfortable chair.  A coil is placed on the patient’s head and the pulses are delivered through the scalp to the brain.  Usually that patient feels nothing during the session, but occasionally a patient will report a faint tapping sensation on the scalp.  Many patients view television or listen to music during the sessions.  The patient is able to return to regular daily activities immediately following the treatment session.

Side Effects of TMS

A multitude of clinical studies have proven that TMS and dTMS are extremely well tolerated with few if any side effects.  Without the need for sedation, risks associated with general anesthesia are non-existent.  The few side effects that have been reported tend to be transient and dissipate as the sessions continue.  These adverse effects include:

  • Mild to moderate headache.  Headaches are the most common of the side effects reported from TMS or dTMS treatment.  However, some patients who once suffered from recurrent headaches have reported improvement after TMS or dTMS therapy.
  • Discomfort across scalp region.  Some patients report scalp irritation where the coil was placed during the procedure.  Most describe this side effects as mild to moderate intensity.
  • Dizziness.  Feelings of dizziness have been reported following a TMS or dTMS session.  In most cases, the dizziness fades soon after the session ends.
  • Lightheadedness.  Sometimes lightheadedness accompanies the dizziness and mild headache.  As is with the other side effects, lightheadedness resolves shortly following the session.
  • Tingling sensation.  A few patients have reported a tingling sensation in the head during the therapy session.  Tingling is mild and subsides following the TMS or dTMS session.

If a patient does experience side effects in response to a TMS or dTMS session, they tend to be more prominent in the first two weeks of treatment, and then subside.  It is very rare for side effects to linger throughout the 4-6 week treatment period.  Very few patients will suspend treatment due to discomfort, as adverse affects are minimal and the benefits of receiving the treatments outweigh any side effects.

Achieve TMS Largest U.S. Provider of dTMS Depression Treatment

Achieve TMS East is a premier provider of dTMS therapy in the northeast, with two convenient office locations in Massachusetts.  The doctors and clinicians are committed to providing compassionate treatment for MDD in patients who were medication-resistant.  Patients will find an expert staff and comfortable, pleasant offices at Achieve TMS East.


For more information about dTMS please call us today at (877) 297-5816.

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