How Does TMS Work

Depression is a common mental disorder that affects about 16 million Americans each year. Although depression is often a treatable disorder, a quarter of people with depression have treatment-resistant depression (TRD). Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) is an FDA-approved treatment option for patients who do not respond to standard treatment methods or have TRD.

Like any other procedure, patients who consider going for TMS as a treatment for depression may have some concerns. You could require assurance of the benefits and safety of the procedure. If you or your loved ones have unsuccessfully tried other treatment options, it could be time to try TMS.

What is TMS?

Transcranial magnetic stimulation is a non-invasive procedure that uses electromagnetic frequencies to stimulate underactive regions of the brain. During the procedure, a magnetic coil is placed on the top of one’s head, where it is then used to target and stimulate regions of the brain associated with mood and well-being.

How Does TMS Work?

Magnetic frequencies produced by TMS machines gently penetrate the cranium and reach the underactive parts of the brain. By stimulating these underactive regions of the brain, rTMS therapy can normalize levels of neurotransmitters related to mood (i.e. serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine).

This concept is similar to how some medications produce their anti-depressant effects. The difference is that TMS therapy does not include pharmaceutical drugs, and hence lacks the side effects that come with medication use.

TMS is often referred to as rTMS due to the repetitive magnetic pulses needed for treatment to be effective. For rTMS to produce lasting effects, sessions must be done 3 to 5 days a week for roughly 6 weeks (36 sessions on average).

Because of its success in treating symptoms of TRD, TMS is now being explored as an option for a range of psychiatric disorders.

Other disorders TMS can be used for include but are not limited to:

Benefits of TMS

TMS excites and stimulates inactive neurons in the prefrontal cortex, which helps in mood management.

TMS benefits can include:

TMS Benefits in Southern California

Common Side Effects

In most cases, the side effects last only for a few hours and can be managed with over-the-counter pain medication. The therapist can also adjust the level of stimulation to reduce the side effects. TMS serious side effects are very rare and the most serious side effect of seizures has only occurred in 0.1% of patients.

The most common side effects that can occur in patients include:

How to Prepare for TMS

Prior to a TMS procedure, patients require:

  1. Physical examination to discuss health conditions that may be affected by TMS therapy
  2. Mental/psychiatric examination, mostly to discuss your disorder


During your physical or health examination, you should let your doctor or therapist know if you:

  1. Are pregnant to avoid interfering with your pregnancy
  2. You have a history of seizures or epilepsy
  3. History of brain injury
  4. You have a metal, magnetic, or brain electrodes
  5. Taking medication, whether prescription or over-the-counter


A mental examination entails discussing your mental health status, including a history of substance abuse. Therapists may also be interested in knowing whether the patient has had other TMS therapies.

During the Treatment

The treatment normally lasts for up to 40 minutes. Once in the TMS room, the patient sits comfortably on a chair for the duration of the TMS session. The therapist then gets the right position for the magnetic coil and places the TMS machine over the patient’s head. Patients can hear a gentle tap or clicking sound on the top of their head while the TMS machine is running.

After Treatment

TMS is a brief procedure that does not interfere with the patient’s day-to-day activities. The patient can, therefore, drive to and from the clinic, as well as continue with work or business after the procedure.

After a few weeks of treatment sessions, patients can begin to experience reduced symptoms, and over time overcome their depression. When the procedure is done properly and repetitively, patients who respond to TMS can experience long-term remissions.

Is TMS Covered by Insurance?

Many insurance companies recognize the effectiveness of TMS for treatment resistant depression. Therefore TMS is covered by most insurance companies because it is FDA-approved for TRD. However, patients may seek clarification from their insurance provider on whether they cover the procedure.

Some insurance providers may also require patients to meet these conditions:

TMS Treatment in Southern California

TMS is a non-invasive electromagnetic procedure for treating treatment resistant depression or other mental health conditions. The procedure works by using the electromagnetic fields to stimulate underactive regions of the brain that are responsible for mood regulation. TMS is a safe option for patients who have unsuccessfully tried other methods for treating depression.

If you or someone you know is struggling with treatment-resistant depression, TMS may be beneficial. Clear Care Center provides TMS as an alternative treatment for depression. Contact us today to speak to one of our specialists and gather more information or book an appointment.