You might be asking…well what the heck is Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation and why on Earth would that be life changing? As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I suffer from PMDD, depression and anxiety (albeit less anxiety overall with coping skills). I underwent a 6 week procedure called Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation to help with ongoing depression that I’ve had since my early 20’s…and it worked! Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) is a noninvasive procedure that uses magnetic fields to stimulate nerve cells in the brain to improve symptoms of depression, anxiety and a few other “off label” mental health disorders. TMS is typically used when other depression treatments have failed or have not been effective enough for the person.
TMS has been around for quite some time despite most people not knowing about it. TMS works by using an electromagnetic coil that is placed on top of the front part of your head. The electromagnetic device delivers a series of magnetic pulses that has been proven to stimulate nerve cells in the region of your brain involved in mood control and depression. It’s thought to re-activate parts of the brain that have had decreased activity due to depression. The sessions are approximately 6 weeks in duration and the procedure only takes about 16 minutes after your first mapping session.
Because you have to have the procedure done repetitively, some people refer to it as “Repetitive TMS.” A major benefit is that rTMS is a noninvasive form of brain stimulation. Unlike vagus nerve stimulation or deep brain stimulation, rTMS does not require surgery or implantation of electrodes in order for the person to have success. The biggest factor that makes this treatment stand out, in my opinion, is that unlike electroconvulsive therapy (ECT), rTMS doesn’t cause seizures or require sedation with anesthesia.
There are very minimal side effects with TMS. Most people tolerate the procedure without complaints. It is considered very safe and effective. The minimal side effects include the following; minor scalp discomfort, lightheadedness, headache, tingling, spasms or twitching of the facial muscles. Personally I experienced twitching of the muscles in my face only during the activation of the machine itself. It did not hurt whatsoever. I did have a migraine one time post session, but I attribute that to heightened stress on that particular day. Rare side effects include; seizure, mania and hearing loss.
At your initial consult the provider will discuss all the risks and benefits and screen you to make sure you are an ideal candidate. Some insurance providers are now covering TMS, however, you sometimes have to jump through hoops to get it cover. Most TMS providers are happy to help and guide you with documentation and providing additional services like counseling, therapy or medications to help get coverage. Most insurance companies will want to know how many medications you have tried and why they did not work, how many times you’ve sought psychological treatment and that you are still in need of help.
I had been interested in trying Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation for myself for many years. I lost insurance coverage when I had a change in my position at work, so treatment was delayed for about 2 years. When I had randomly mentioned my interest to a fellow co-worker who was in school to become a nurse practitioner and he mentioned that he was precepting at a company called GenHealth here in Arizona. He said that at first he was on the fence about the efficacy of the treatment because it seemed too good to be true. He noted that he soon had a change of heart when floods of patients would return with astounding results. After hearing that he was able to see first hand how this treatment was changing peoples lives I booked my first appointment.
The providers at GenHealth were amazing. I felt validated, comfortable and safe. My psychiatric nurse practitioner, Laura, reviewed everything about my history and the expected treatment. They provided me counseling as well, that in itself, has done wonders. When it was time for my very first visit with the TMS practitioner Dave, both he and my Laura attended to ensure that placement on my head would be mapped just right to my body. From that point on I met with Dave 5 days out of the week for about 6 weeks. They were very accommodating to my schedule and even if I had an emergency, they allowed me to re-schedule if needed. Dave became like a friend to me as I continued my treatment. During my sessions we watched Netflix and laughed, chatted about life and current events, and even shared investing tips with each other.
The outcome has been more amazing than I could have imagined. I feel like I can now “feel my feelings” in a “normal” way. I am not numb, I am not euphoric…I am “normal” again. My depression primarily presented with anger and frustration, a lack of motivation and wanting to isolate. I now feel like I can process my feelings better and I react less quickly. As I say, “I don’t go from 0 to 100 anymore.” I feel like I can handle stressful situations more easily and don’t overreact as much as I did. Overall I feel happier. I also have noticed that I am WAY more patient with my family. I am more pleasant for them to be around. Instead of walking on eggshells around me they are now making more plans to be with me.
My sleep has improved as well and that was one of the first things I’ve noticed. I’ve had chronic insomnia since the early nights of nursing. I still practice a very specific sleep hygiene routine, but it doesn’t take me nearly as long to fall asleep and I am waking more refreshed than I have in years. Overall I would recommend Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation to anyone that has not found relief with typical mental health treatments or medications.
Why hasn’t this treatment been more widespread? TMS does cost quite a bit out of pocket if your insurance does not cover it. Why don’t more insurance providers cover TMS? Well in my opinion it’s because they know that the more people receive long lasting treatment that is effective the less “customers” they will have to cover. Now there is no hard evidence of that but to me it’s a reason why most of the healthcare system is broken.Join Amazon Prime – Watch Thousands of Movies & TV Shows Anytime – Start Free Trial Now
Preventative healthcare is a thing of the past. If providers and insurance companies cannot make money on people long term…what is the point? Luckily, I feel that with COVID-19, many people have opened their eyes to all the misconduct going on within the healthcare system. Many people are realizing that our medical system is very broken, not to mention that many psychiatric services are not covered or non-existent in some situations. Big-pharma has played a huge role in this crisis. Companies don’t get paid when people are healthy. This all ties in to other problems such as our food supply and the fact that many companies rely on the fact that people are addicted to processed and surgery foods…which makes them huge profits, but in turn causes numerous health problems and psychological disorders. The web of deceit is extensive. I hope to write further posts on every aspect of these issues.
Providers like the ones at GenHealth and other holistic providers, functional medicine practitioners and naturopaths are paving the way for the future of healthcare. Preventative healthcare will be the future…it has to be or the human species will not survive.
Tell me about your experience with Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation below.