Powerful Jolts of Electro-Magnetic Pulses Stop Depression
Many people suffer from depression. Major depressive disorder affects 6% of US adults. Most therapies to treat depression involve the use of pharmaceutical medications. This medicine works in small doses at first but with continued use the patients need larger quantities of the drugs to get the same results. Eventually patients can become addicted to their medications.
A new treatment for depression with or without physical pain called transcranial magnetic stimulation or TMS treats patients with electro-magnetic pulses directed to different areas of the brain that are associated with emotions. TMS can increase certain chemicals in the brain that fight depression and control negative emotions.
Transcranial magnetic stimulation involves placing the patients head into a large pulsating magnetic helmet for 20 minutes a day five days a week for a month. Then only a few visits per month for several months is required for maintenance. Many patients have already benefited from this non-invasive therapy even when other forms of therapy for depression have failed.
TMS is worth a try if you fit the criteria for this cutting edge therapy. This therapy is expensive without insurance. It can cost about $10,000 to $14,000 for a 20 minute session. However, transcranial magnetic therapy is FDA approved and about 70% of insurance providers cover TMS.
Sitting in an outpatient room at the Comprehensive Spine Center in Dover Wednesday while wearing an oversized helmet , that’s what Tony McKinney hears and feels sporadically on his head over the course of a 20 minute treatment.
Bam. Bam. Bam. Bam. It’s a sound he’s heard for the past eight months and a sound that has changed his life.
McKinney, 53, of Dover, has been undergoing transcranial magnetic stimulation, a treatment for depression.
The treatment uses magnetic currents to trigger chemicals in the brain that control emotions and relieve depression symptoms.
Chronic pain can worsen depression symptoms and can be a risk factor for suicide, according to the National Institutes for Health. Most pain medication can cause depressive side-effects, as well.
People who have been injured on the job for instance and develop chronic pain may have to stop working because of serious physical limitations.
“This is causing the downward cycle into depression,” said Dr. Ganesh Balu, head pain specialist at Comprehensive Spine Center which specialists in pain management and workplace injury rehab.
“It’s usually reserved for when medication management has not taken the patient far enough,” says Dr. Carol Tavani, a neuropsychiatrist with Christiana Psychiatric Services who consults with Brandywine Counseling and Community Services. It’s a newer technology, she said, but has been gaining popularity.
“The goal is remission. We do want people to not be depressed at all,” Tavani said. “In those cases we look to other modalities.”
Cleared by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 2008 and studied since the mid-90s, the less well-known treatment uses ahelmet lined with electromagnetic coils to generate magnetic pulses to the top left area of the brain.
People who suffer from depression have low levels of serotonin and dopamine in this region. The chemicals help regulate thinking, action, emotion and motor function.
The pulses are not radiation and are designed to give that area a shock to jumpstart activity. They are similar to the magnetic waves used in an MRI.
To prepare for the procedure, patients first put on a cloth helmet with a sticky tape cross marking where the magnetic waves are going to hit, as well as ear plugs to make sure the waves don’t damage the eardrums. Then the electromagnetic coiled helmet is hooked on. It looks and feels as if it is attached to a cool hairdryer.
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