Does Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation Therapy Hurt?


As soon as people hear what’s involved in TMS therapy they picture a horror movie type insane asylum where people get strapped down and electrocuted. TMS couldn’t be more different than that. While TMS does share similarities with ECT (whose earlier variations were somewhat similar to the stereotypical electroshock shown in movies), the two are vastly different. But these similarities cause people to panic about potential pain so we’re here to debunk this.


TMS Doesn’t Hurt, But It May Be Uncomfortable


Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation doesn’t hurt, but patients may be uncomfortable during the first few sessions. When the pulses are sent it can cause a tapping sensation on the scalp, which can be a little uncomfortable. About half of all TMS patients experience some mild to moderate soreness on their head for the first few weeks.


Doctors recommend that patients take over the counter pain medication, such as aspirin, Tylenol, or Motrin before or after a TMS session to manage this discomfort. The good news is that as the sessions progress the scalp becomes less sensitive to the tapping sensation of the magnetic pulses so there is less discomfort.


Other than scalp sensations, some patients report a ringing or slight temporary hearing issues after the sessions, especially in the beginning. This is because the TMS machine produces a loud clicking noise when it’s on. Patients are instructed to wear earplugs or headphones playing music so that the noise doesn’t hurt their ears, but in some cases it still does.


As one can expect, sending electrical pulses into the brain can cause headaches. Most patients report these go away not long after the session is complete with the help of over the counter pain medication.


If patients experience any pain or the discomfort becomes too much, notify the doctor. They will readjust the coils or lower the magnetic pulse strength to eliminate this.


TMS therapy is perfectly safe, and it doesn’t hurt so don’t worry! Other than some mild discomforts such as scalp tingling, ear ringing, and headaches, patients don’t report any other side effects. If you have any more questions or want to see if TMS is right for you, feel free to contact us.

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