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Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Sep 3, 2023.

What do I need to know about transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS)?

TMS is a procedure used to treat depression, anxiety, migraines, and other disorders. During the treatment, a magnet is used to stimulate a specific part of your brain. The magnetic pulses are about as strong as the magnet used during an MRI scan. You may need TMS in combination with medicines and therapy. The treatment usually takes about 20 to 40 minutes and does not hurt. You may need TMS 5 days a week for 4 to 6 weeks.

How do I prepare for TMS?

Your healthcare provider will talk to you about how to prepare. Tell him or her if you have any metal in or on your body.

What will happen during TMS?

  • You are awake and alert during this treatment. The magnet coil is held near the area of your brain that controls your symptoms. For example, if you are being treated for depression, the coil is held near the left, front side of your head. This area is directly over the part of the brain that helps regulate your mood.
  • Electromagnetic pulses are sent through the coil. These magnetic pulses cause small electrical currents in your brain. These currents stimulate nerve cells in your brain. You may feel a small tap or knock on your head as the pulses are given. Some people choose to wear earplugs during the procedure. Your scalp, jaw, or face muscles may tingle or tighten during the procedure.

What will happen after TMS?

You will be able to go home and return to your usual activities after each session. You may start to see your depression symptoms improve in 4 to 6 weeks. As with any treatment for depression, your symptoms may get worse before they get better.

What are the risks of TMS?

You may have mild discomfort or a tingly sensation on your head where the magnet is placed. You may have a mild headache or lightheadedness. Seizures have been reported in rare cases.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your healthcare providers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.