7 Myths of Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation

Keegan Warrington
January 31, 2022

Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) is a new technology that has shown great promise in treating debilitating neuropsychiatric disorders. Recently, it has been used to treat conditions like depression and migraines.

7 Common TMS Myths

But, misconceptions about TMS are still prevalent among medical professionals and patients alike. The following is a list of the 7 most common myths associated with this promising area of neurostimulation.

TMS Myth 1: TMS causes seizures or brain damage

Fact: There have been no reports describing seizures resulting from TMS in any peer-reviewed journals. Patients receiving adequate stimulation intensities typically do not report discomfort. Brains scans on people undergoing TMS also show no signs of damage.

Even at higher levels than those needed to stimulate the motor cortex, which is the part of the brain that’s responsible for muscle movement. The most common side effects reported by patients during TMS sessions are mild, including scalp pain and headaches.

TMS Myth 2: TMS is not very effective at treating depression or migraines

Fact: Although the exact efficacy of TMS treatment plans remains to be seen, the development of this field has already yielded helpful treatments. For example, when compared to placebo rTMS – a treatment plan known as “sham” stimulation, studies have shown that patients receiving active rTMS experienced significantly better outcomes in less time. The benefits were evident within three weeks following a total of only 20 stimulation sessions. Additionally, several studies have found positive results from specialized migraine treatment plans. TMS for depression has also been shown to be an effective treatment plan.

TMS Myth 3: TMS is a new procedure

Fact: In the past 20 years, the FDA alone has approved three devices for use in TMS treatment plans. The first was cleared in November 2008 for clinical administration of a “treatment plan” known as repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) and is said to treat depression by facilitating neuroplasticity—the ability of neurons to form new connections which help patients recover from depressive episodes.

In May 2013, another device was cleared by the FDA to treat severe migraine headaches with an acute treatment plan, also known as rTMS. This particular simulation method does not require anesthesia and is effective in treating migraines.

The FDA cleared the most recent device in July 2014, which allows certain physicians to administer an acute treatment plan for migraine headache or TMS treatment plan using a mobile medical app with their patients.

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TMS Myth 4: TMS can cause epilepsy

Fact: This myth has circulated because seizures are the most common side effect reported by rTMS patients with depression and other neuropsychiatric brain conditions. However, seizures related to TMS are extremely rare—so rare that they only occur about once every 50,000 treatments!

TMS Myth 5: TMS is better than drugs for treating severe depression

Fact: While it’s certainly true that antidepressants can have a positive effect on patients with depression, TMS is not necessarily better. The main difference between drug therapy and rTMS is that the latter only provides acute treatment of depression.

That said, there’s reason to believe that combining drug therapies and TMS may prove to be an effective method of treating depression in the future. Some physicians already prescribe antidepressants before administering an rTMS stimulation plan, while others combine both into a single treatment plan known as medication-augmented rTMS.

The efficacy of other types of TMS (e.g., focal or inhibitory) for other neurological conditions has not been studied enough to make conclusions. However, preliminary findings indicate that these treatments could help treat specific conditions, including Parkinson’s disease.

TMS Myth 6: TMS makes you feel better more quickly than drug therapy

Fact: While TMS may help treat depressive symptoms faster than an antidepressant during the acute treatment plan, this is primarily because of the type of stimulation provided—not because it speeds up recovery.

As previously mentioned, rTMS requires only 20 sessions to provide significant relief, whereas antidepressants are said to require weeks or even months for their benefits to be felt. However, some people continue to use antidepressants after receiving rTMS treatment plans to maintain positive results on a long-term basis.

TMS Myth 7: The FDA has only approved the acute treatment plan for depression and migraine headaches

Fact: While this is true for both FDA-approved TMS treatment plans, other forms of TMS may be beneficial in treating certain conditions. For example, another form known as HF10 therapy can relieve patients suffering from tinnitus—a condition typically treated with drugs or surgery. Similarly, the high frequency (HF) stimulation provided by rTMS has been said to reduce cravings and ease nicotine withdrawal symptoms associated with smoking cessation.

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What is TMS Recommended For?

TMS has been used to treat depression, migraines, and tinnitus.

Who Should Not Receive TMS?

People who have implanted medical devices (such as an insulin pump), pacemakers, defibrillators, or metallic fragments in their eyes should not receive TMS treatment. Also to be considered are the effects of rTMS on pregnant women, people under 18 years old, or elderly people.

What Can I Expect During a TMS Session?

The patient lies down on a table and is fitted with electrodes that deliver magnetic pulses to the brain. While researchers aren’t certain how the process helps relieve pain, many believe that it interrupts communication between nerve cells to help ease pain signals. During each session, there may be a slight tapping sensation in the treatment area, but most say it’s not painful. There is no recovery time or after-effects.


Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation myths often prevent patients from accessing the treatment they need in order to live a healthy and happy life. TMS therapy is often a cost-effective option when compared to drug therapies or surgeries which can produce unwanted side effects and must be repeated over time. If you need TMS therapy, Call us NOW!

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Keegan Warrington