TMS: Myths and Realities

by Chris Clancy

December 8, 2017

transcranial magnetic stimulation

Relative to other behavioral health procedures, transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) is a new therapy. The first reliable transcranial magnetic stimulator was introduced to the world by Dr. Anthony Barker in 1984. Since then, TMS has undergone various developments and applications, including the measurement of brain activity and the treatment of anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), chronic pain, and other mental health conditions.

But as with any “new” medical procedure, TMS has garnered its share of misunderstandings, half-truths, and outright myths. Check out below some of the top TMS myths heard by our partners at NeuroMed. And to learn more about TMS, check out this video.

Myth #1: TMS is invasive.

Invasive procedures refer to the breaking of skin or entrance into a body cavity, so no, TMS is not invasive. In fact, the stimulation apparatus—that is, the coil that sends out the magnetic pulses—does not even touch the patient’s head. Of course, since the stimulation apparatus doesn’t touch the patient’s head, the patient’s head remains stable by positioning frames that rest on the chin and forehead.

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Myth #2: TMS is the same as electroshock therapy.

Anyone who’s seen the 1975 film One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest remembers Jack Nicholson’s character convulsing in the grip of painful electroshock treatments. But TMS is nothing like electroshock therapy, other than the fact that the brain is involved, so this TMS myth is one born of misunderstanding.

No convulsions, no mouth guards, no memory loss—just a series of painless magnetic pulses that stimulate new cognitive pathways. Patients are free to drive home from their treatments. Just 17 percent of TMS patients report experiencing a mild headache after treatment. It should be noted that a tiny percent—six in 1,000—have reported seizure after treatment.

Myth #3: TMS is a “cash only” treatment.

TMS is currently the most commonly practiced brain stimulation technique in medicine, so many, if not most, insurance companies provide coverage for up to 30 TMS treatment visits, as does Medicaid and Medicare in most states. In cases where it isn’t covered, the cost of therapy may be recoverable through flexible health savings accounts and patient financing loans. Needless to say, the JourneyPure administration team will discuss coverage, cost, and reimbursement and work with anyone recommended for TMS.

Myth #4: TMS is medically ineffective—whatever benefits the patient feels are in his or her head.

TMS was cleared by the Food and Drug Administration in 2008 and is now recognized as a proven behavioral health treatment, particularly for people suffering from depression who’ve proven “treatment resistant,” or who have not benefited from other antidepressant medication treatments. The first treatment requires the presence of a board-certified psychiatrist, while all following treatments are required to be carried out by a certified TMS technician.

As for benefits that the patient may or may not feel: most patients don’t feel different until the six or seventh treatment.

“There’s no instant euphoria,” said Dr. Charles Ihrig, a psychologist, and co-founder of NeuroMed. “It usually takes two or three weeks to start to feel anything. But 80 percent of our patients report significant benefit. We can line people up for positive testimonials.”

TMS treatment through NeuroMed and JourneyPure

NeuroMed TMS Centers stands at the forefront of transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), with multiple treatment centers throughout the Southeast. JourneyPure is proud to partner with NeuroMed TMS Centers to offer TMS treatment to select JourneyPure clients on an outpatient basis.

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