TMS Side Effects and Risks | Prioritising Patient Safety and Comfort

Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) has emerged as a powerful and innovative intervention, particularly for treating conditions like depression and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). Neuralia TMS stands at the forefront of this therapeutic advancement, emphasising not only the potential benefits of TMS, but also prioritising patient safety with a commitment to ethical treatment.

Medicare  & DVA covered*
No out-of-pocket fees**
Non-invasive treatment

* No-out-of-pocket fees for Medicare patients who meet the Depression eligibility criteria.
** Read more about the cost of TMS and Medicare coverage

We believe in empowering and educating our patients with everything they need to make informed decisions. So, let’s dive straight into the side effects and risks of TMS, alongside its benefits.

Common TMS Side Effects and How to Treat Them

TMS side effects and risks
TMS side effects and risks

The most common side effects associated with TMS include headaches, scalp discomfort, light-headedness, and facial twitching. The team here at Neuralia TMS underscores that these side effects are typically temporary and mild. These side effects will improve soon after a session and will become less frequent as your treatment progresses.

Headaches

  • Stay hydrated: Dehydration can contribute to headaches, so ensure you drink enough water before and after your TMS session.
  • Over-the-counter pain relievers: With your healthcare provider’s approval, consider taking over-the-counter pain relievers like acetaminophen or ibuprofen as directed.

Scalp Discomfort

  • Gentle scalp massage: Gently massaging your scalp can help alleviate discomfort. Use your fingertips and apply a light, circular motion.
  • Communicate with your technician: If you experience any discomfort during your session, speak to your TMS technician. They can make adjustments to make you more comfortable.

Light-Headedness

  • Eat before your session: Have a light meal or snack before your TMS session to stabilise your blood sugar levels and reduce the likelihood of light-headedness.
  • Move slowly: Take your time when standing up after the session to minimise the risk of dizziness.

Facial Twitching

  • Relax facial muscles: Conscious efforts to relax your facial muscles during the session may reduce the likelihood of twitching.
  • Inform your technician: If facial twitching becomes bothersome, let your technician know. They can adjust the equipment settings for a more comfortable experience.

Less Frequent TMS Risks

While TMS is generally safe, it’s crucial to acknowledge less frequent risks like seizures, mania, and hearing loss. Neuralia TMS employs rigorous safety measures and a thorough screening process to minimise these risks. Remember to communicate openly with your doctor and TMS technician. This is particularly important if you experience anything new or unusual.

Seizures

  • Rigorous screening: Neuralia TMS conducts thorough screenings to identify individuals at higher risk of seizures. Openly share your medical history with your healthcare provider.
  • Compliance with guidelines: Adhere strictly to the recommended number and frequency of TMS sessions. Deviating from the prescribed guidelines may increase the risk of seizures.

Mania

  • Ongoing communication: Maintain open communication with your healthcare provider regarding changes in mood or energy levels.
  • Collaborative approach: If you have a history of manic episodes or bipolar disorder, work closely with your treatment team to monitor for any signs of mania. They will work with you to make timely adjustments to your treatment plan if necessary.

Hearing Loss

  • Proper ear protection: Always use the ear protection provided during TMS sessions to safeguard against any potential hearing-related side effects.
  • Regular hearing check-ups: Schedule regular check-ups with an audiologist to monitor your hearing health throughout your TMS treatment.

Remember, these practical tips are general guidelines, and individual responses to brain stimulation may vary. Always consult with your healthcare provider and TMS technician to personalise your experience and address any concerns specific to your situation.

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Addressing Your Concerns on TMS Side Effects and Risks

Having concerns about TMS therapy is completely natural. Here, we’ll address some of the most common questions:

Is TMS Safe?

Yes, TMS and rTMS (repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation) are considered safe and effective treatments for major depressive disorder (MDD), OCD, and other conditions. TMS is a non-invasive treatment that uses magnetic fields to stimulate specific areas of the brain.

Since its public introduction in 1985, TMS has been extensively researched and approved by numerous regulatory bodies, including the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) in Australia, and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the United States.

While there are some potential side effects, they are usually mild and temporary. Our clinic prioritises your safety and well-being by:

  • Conducting a thorough screening process to identify any potential risks before starting treatment
  • Developing an individualised treatment plan tailored to your specific needs and medical history
  • Using state-of-the-art equipment
  • Employing rigorous safety protocols
  • Monitoring you and your progress throughout your treatment.

Will it Hurt?

TMS is well-tolerated, so most patients experience minimal discomfort during TMS sessions. You might feel a tapping sensation on your scalp where the magnetic coil is positioned, but this will not be painful. Your comfort is our priority, and we encourage you to communicate any discomfort or concerns you may have during your sessions.

What If I Have a Seizure?

The risk of seizures with TMS is extremely low, with an incidence significantly less than 1% as reported in a comprehensive literature review (Safety with Respect to Seizures: A Literature Review, PMC7732158). Nevertheless, we take every precaution to minimise this risk by:

  • Conducting a detailed assessment of your medical history and excluding individuals with certain risk factors
  • Using specific stimulation parameters and closely monitoring your brain activity throughout the treatment session.

In the unlikely event of a seizure, our team is fully equipped to handle the situation. We are fully trained to provide immediate medical attention.

Beyond our clinic, remember you’re not alone on your journey. We encourage you to:

  • Talk openly with your doctor: Your doctor’s understanding of your medical history can help address any specific concerns you might have.
  • Connect with a support group: Connecting with others who have had TMS therapy can be a valuable source of information, understanding, and even a source of comfort, likely to put your mind at ease.
  • Explore online resources: Reputable websites like the Black Dog Institute or the Australian Society of Psychiatry offer resources and insights on TMS therapy.

TMS Side Effects and Risks vs Benefits

Taking the time to address your concerns is crucial before making any treatment decisions. We at Neuralia TMS are here to answer your questions, walk you through the process, and ensure your journey towards mental wellness is informed and supported.

We’ve summarised the side effects, risks, and benefits of TMS therapy below.

Side Effects and Risks Benefits
Common and Mild Rare 60–65% Success/Efficacy Rate
Mild headaches Seizures Non-invasive
Slight scalp discomfort Mania/manic episodes Potentially long-lasting results
Pain at the treatment site Hearing loss (only if ears are unprotected during treatment) TGA-approved for treatment-resistant depression
Tingling or twitching of facial muscles Fainting No withdrawal symptoms
Spasms No antidepressants
Light-headedness No medication-induced drowsiness
No medication-induced weight gain
Fewer side effects as it is targeted to specific brain regions

On the positive side, TMS benefits are impressive and well worth considering. Unlike medication, TMS doesn’t involve taking antidepressants or dealing with side effects like drowsiness or weight gain. Instead, TMS simply uses magnetic pulses to stimulate specific brain regions. TMS therapy’s targeted and precise approach focuses on specific brain areas associated with depression, meaning that side effects are minimised. Moreover, targeting particular areas of the brain offers faster results.

For many individuals who are dealing with treatment-resistant depression, or who haven’t found relief with traditional therapy, TMS can be a game-changer. TMS therapy is effective – this is not only based on the research and clinical trials, but also on our first-hand experience. We have seen our patients’ symptoms and quality of life improve significantly.

However, it’s important to be aware of the potential downsides. While usually mild and temporary, some patients experience common side effects such as headaches, scalp discomfort, facial twitching, or light-headedness during treatment sessions.

In rare cases, more serious side effects like seizures, mania, and hearing loss (if proper ear protection isn’t used) can occur. Another downside is access, as TMS clinics might be limited depending on your location.

Ultimately, you’ll need to have a discussion with your doctor about whether TMS is right for you. Your doctor will help you weigh the potential benefits against the risks, with your individual circumstances in mind.

How Can TMS Help Me?
Take the TMS Quiz to find out more.

FREE TMS CHECK TAKES 2 MINUTES

Contact

Contact Neuralia TMS today and take a step toward a quieter, more fulfilling future.

Phone: 08 6230 3996 / 08 6230 2231

Email: [email protected] / [email protected]

Healthlink ID: neuralia

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Dr Shanek Wick – Author Bio

Dr. Shanek Wick, a distinguished Fellow of the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists, specialises in holistic mental health care with a focus on interventional psychiatry, neurostimulation, and addiction.

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Neuralia TMS are the Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) specialists in Perth, WA. TMS is non-invasive treatment for depression and several other conditions.

Phone: 6230 3996
Email: [email protected]
Fax: 6230 2231
Healthlink ID: neuralia

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