Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) was developed in 1985 and is a useful tool for treating depression. Since its introduction, TMS has been gaining clinical interest as two-thirds of patients experience either full remission of their depression symptoms or noticeable improvements after using this treatment. 

TMS is a non-invasive treatment that works by directing recurring magnetic energy pulses at specific areas of the brain that are involved in mood control. The magnetic pulses pass painlessly through the skull to stimulate brain cells which can improve communication between different parts of the brain. The result is long-lasting effects on how the brain functions which can ease depression symptoms and improve mood.

The FDA approved the use of TMS to treat major depressive disorder in 2008. TMS is typically used when standard treatments such as talk therapy and medication prove to be ineffective. TMS therapy is done by a TMS technician or a TMS physician and is an outpatient procedure. The treatments will last between 30 to 60 minutes and patients are able to drive home after and immediately resume normal activities. The exact length of the treatment depends on the patient’s response, but typically the procedure is conducted 5 days a week for 4 to 6 weeks. 

The draw to TMS as a viable treatment option for major depressive disorder is its efficacy with minimal side effects. In successful applications of TMS, depression symptoms may improve or go away completely. With results like this, an individual should be able to resume a more normal lifestyle with less reliance on ongoing or maintenance treatments options.

About the Author

Kimberly Sandberg Aloha Integrative Health
Kim Sandberg is the owner and founder of Aloha Integrative Health and a Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist. She has two advanced degrees: a Masters of Science in Nursing as a Nurse Anesthetist and a Doctor of Nursing Practice. She has worked in a variety of settings, though the biggest impact on Kim and her work came from her 28 years of service in the Navy Reserve.

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