What To Expect During Your First TMS Treatment For Depression

Health & Medical Blog

If you have been struggling with depression in spite of trying therapy and various medications, one other treatment your doctor may recommend is called TMS, or transcranial magnetic stimulation. This sounds — and looks — a bit scary, but it's really not. If you know what to expect, you can relax and get the most out of your first session rather than being overly worried about what's going on.

The Preparation Steps

When you first arrive for your TMS appointment, you will typically be shown into a comfortable room. Some doctors have you rest on a bed or in a padded, reclining chair. There may be gentle music playing or dim lights to help create a calm mood. Here in this room, your practitioner will take measurements of your head, using a tape measure. All they're trying to do is make sure they size the magnetic device appropriately. The doctor or practitioner will also give you earplugs to wear.

The Treatment

Once you're comfortable, your doctor will position the magnetic treatment coil over your head. It's important to remember this is not electro-shock treatment. Nothing scary will be happening with the coil, so you can relax. All it will be doing is creating a magnetic field around your head. You may near some tapping or clicking sounds as it works, but with good earplugs, these should be barely noticeable. You may also feel some mild irritation or pressure on your scalp, but once again, this will not be overly painful or serious enough that it makes the treatment unpleasant.

Treatment length varies, but most patients spend about a half-hour under the coil for their first session. 

The Recovery

There's not a recovery period with TMS therapy. You can return home or go back to work as soon as your session is over. Your scalp may be mildly sore from wearing the coil, but there won't be any pain.

Many patients find that their feelings of depression lift immediately after TMS. However, there is some variability as to how long this lasts. You may feel that you need another treatment in a week, or in a month. Typically, as you go for repeated treatments, each one remains effective for longer, until you no longer need additional sessions.

TMS is quite safe, painless, and tends to work when medications for depression have failed. Your first session can seem a little strange, but once you know what to expect, you may even start to look forward to the experience. 


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