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Can TMS be Used to Treat PTSD?

Can TMS be Used to Treat PTSD?

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What is PTSD?

Exposure to or experiencing a terrible event can cause an anxiety disorder known as post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).1 You may repeatedly replay the incident or even forget about it entirely. Even if you weren’t personally engaged in the experience, you might still find it challenging to lead a normal life due to the shock of what happened.2

PTSD is typically diagnosed by a mental health professional and includes an assessment where you’ll answer questions about your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors.

The treatment of PTSD might assist you in regaining control over your life. Although medications may also be used, psychotherapy is the primary form of treatment. Combining these therapies can aid in symptom improvement.

Most of the time, symptoms appear within three months of the traumatic event. However, they might appear years afterward. To be deemed as PTSD, symptoms must be severe enough to interfere with daily activities, relationships, and employment for more than a month.3

Symptoms vary and can change over time from one person to another, but may include the following:4

  • Intrusive memories, such as upsetting memories or nightmares
  • Avoidance of situations, people, or places that bring to memory the traumatic event
  • Adverse shifts in attitude and thought, such as the absence of enthusiasm for activities you once enjoyed
  • Changes in physiological and emotional responses, like being easily alarmed or terrified

Around 6 out of every 100 people, or 6% of the population, will experience PTSD at some point.5

TMS Treatment for PTSD

Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) is a non-invasive alternative therapy that stimulates underactive brain regions with electromagnetic fields. The procedure involves placing a tiny coil over the patient’s head. The magnetic field created by the coil’s electric current can travel through the scalp and bone to affect the activity of the cortex’s nerve cells. The magnetic pulses’ location, strength, and frequency all affect how the magnetic stimulation works.6

Executive control, salience, and default mode networks have all been proven to be impacted by PTSD. The lateral PPC and dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC) are parts of the executive control network. The anterior cingulate cortex, anterior insula, and amygdala are all parts of the salience network. It has been discovered that PTSD results in enhanced functional connections in this latter network.

As previously mentioned, TMS therapy for PTSD uses electromagnetic induction to stimulate particular parts of the brain.7 The procedure influences the chemical activity and operation of brain areas that control mood, improving symptoms.

There are different TMS treatments:

  • Repetitive Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (rTMS): This is the most popular type. It sends a magnetic pulse into the head repeatedly and regularly. Tens of pulses can be fired by rTMS each second.8
    • High-frequency rTMS on the left DLPFC for treatment resistant major depressive disorder (MDD) is FDA approved. The study of TMS use for neuropsychiatric disorders like PTSD, generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), panic disorder, and social anxiety disorder has rapidly increased due to promising outcomes.
  • Intermittent Theta Burst Stimulation (iTBS): This type delivers very high-frequency stimulation over brief periods and has recently been developed. The widespread consensus is that iTBS is a kind of rTMS.
  • Simple TMS: Single magnetic pulse over the cortex
  • Coupled TMS: Two magnetic pulses spaced at different times

TMS therapy is superior to other types of PTSD treatment because of its relative safety and lack of side effects. Additional benefits of PTSD TMS treatment include:9

  • Won’t have to use prescription medication
  • Better sleep
  • Increase mood
  • Help with regaining interest in activities
  • Improvement in mild anxiety
  • Reduced melancholy and gloom
  • Does not require anesthetic, is non-invasive, and most patients tolerate it well
  • An outpatient service so that the patient can go about their daily business as usual
  • According to recent studies, patients who have had trouble taking their medications can still benefit

The First Appointment

Your doctor will first need to decide where the magnets should be placed on your head and how much magnetic energy is appropriate for you. Usually, the initial appointment takes about sixty minutes.
The following will most likely occur at your first treatment:10

  • You’ll be led to a treatment area, instructed to sit in a recliner, and given earplugs to wear throughout the process.
  • Your head will be pressed against an electromagnetic coil frequently turned on and off to create stimulating pulses. This causes a tapping or clicking sound that lasts for a short period before pausing. A tapping feeling will also be felt on your forehead. This procedure is known as mapping.
  • Your doctor will gradually increase the magnetic dose until your fingers or hands begin to twitch to calculate the necessary amount of magnetic energy. This is referred to as your motor threshold and serves as a benchmark for choosing the appropriate dose for you. Depending on your symptoms and adverse effects, the stimulation level can be adjusted throughout the treatment.

A promising 2018 trial studying TMS combined with Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT) worked well for treating PTSD. Moreover, this combination’s curative effects persisted for six months.11

In addition, the findings of two meta-analyses demonstrated that TMS therapy has a general therapeutic impact on PTSD patients. In one study, intrusive memories, avoidance, and hypervigilance did not reduce. However, levels of active distress or insomnia (primary symptoms of PTSD) did decrease.

When Should TMS be Used to Treat PTSD?

Alternative treatments, like TMS for PTSD, are usually used when the patient does not respond to conventional therapies, such as psychotherapy and medication. TMS for PTSD, however, is currently being studied and is considered “off-label” since the FDA has not approved it.

How Will I Know TMS Treatment for PTSD is Working?

When it comes to TMS and PTSD, treatment does require a time commitment. Some individuals won’t see any changes until many weeks after their treatment. For example, you may notice that you are sleeping better and that the trauma of the past disrupts your life less.

Although, some patients might not see changes at all. On the other hand, their loved ones may notice small improvements. These minor improvements may manifest in mood, overall outlook on life, vitality, motivation, and quality of life.

Are There any Side Effects or Risks of Using TMS for PTSD?

Side effects from TMS are uncommon. However, if complications do arise, they might consist of the following:12

  • Headaches (most common)
  • Lightheadedness
  • Scalp pain
  • Neck pain
  • Tingling
  • Face twitching
  • Sleepiness
  • Altered state of mind during treatment
  • Seizures (most rare)13

Who Should Avoid TMS for PTSD Treatment?

TMS therapy for PTSD is not available to people with certain medical implants. Metal implants or gadgets that interact with magnetic fields can cause complications. In addition, you may not be eligible for TMS therapy if you have stents, implanted stimulators, a pacemaker, a medicine pump, cochlear implants, or gunshot fragments in your body. Generally, metal in areas that exceed 10cm from the head is usually acceptable.14

Additionally, people with certain medical issues should not receive TMS. For instance, people who have a history of seizures, those who have bipolar disorder, or those who are pregnant should avoid this therapy.

Finally, inform your TMS clinician about any prescription or over-the-counter medications, supplements, or vitamins you’re taking, as certain drug combinations can cause serious complications. Discussing the above concerns with your doctor before TMS therapy for PTSD is critical to avoid adverse side effects.

Cost & Insurance Coverage for TMS for PTSD

The following are the average costs for TMS therapy. These costs may vary by location and other factors. Therefore, they may not reflect the actual cost of treatment or what you may pay in Tennessee.

TMS sessions typically cost between $400 and $500 per session.15 The overall price of TMS therapy may be around $15,000 because most patients need numerous sessions to acquire desired results.

Athena Care has multiple TMS treatment centers in Tennessee. We are also in-network with most major insurance plans. Therefore, filling out our free and confidential online insurance verification form is the most reliable method to start your PTSD TMS treatment today.

Let our highly experienced, knowledgeable care coordinators handle the challenges of contacting your insurance carrier for more information about TMS treatment. After you submit the form, a care coordinator will review your policy and clearly explain your options. Any information you provide or discuss will remain confidential.


  1. “Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) – Symptoms and Causes.” Mayo Clinic, 6 July 2018, www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/post-traumatic-stress-disorder/symptoms-causes/syc-20355967.
  2. “What Are the Treatments for PTSD?” WebMD, 22 Mar. 2017, www.webmd.com/mental-health/what-are-treatments-for-posttraumatic-stress-disorder.
  3. “Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.” National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/post-traumatic-stress-disorder-ptsd. Accessed 18 Sept. 2022.
  4. “Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) – Symptoms and Causes.” Mayo Clinic, 6 July 2018, www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/post-traumatic-stress-disorder/symptoms-causes/syc-20355967.
  5. VA.gov | Veterans Affairs. www.ptsd.va.gov/understand/common/common_adults.asp.
  6. Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation for the Treatment of Adults with PTSD, GAD, or Depression: A Review of Clinical Effectiveness and Guidelines. Canadian Agency for Drugs and Technologies in Health, 31 October 2014.
  7. Edinoff, Amber. “Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation for Post-traumatic Stress Disorder.” Frontiers, 2022, www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyt.2022.701348/full.
  8. Edinoff, Amber N et al. “Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation for Post-traumatic Stress Disorder.” Frontiers in Psychiatry vol. 13 701348. 31 May. 2022, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9193572/
  9. Ifadmin. “Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation or TMS Therapy – Benefits.” BrainStim TMS USA, 11 Aug. 2020, brainstimtms.com/transcranial-magnetic-stimulation-or-tms-therapy-benefits.
  10. Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation – Mayo Clinic. 27 Nov. 2018, www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/transcranial-magnetic-stimulation/about/pac-20384625.
  11. Kozel, F Andrew et al. “Repetitive TMS to augment cognitive processing therapy in combat veterans of recent conflicts with PTSD: A randomized clinical trial.” Journal of affective disorders vol. 229 (2018): 506-514. doi:10.1016/j.jad.2017.12.046
  12. Nunez, Kirsten. “What You Need to Know About Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) Therapy.” Healthline, 20 Jan. 2021, www.healthline.com/health/tms-therapy.
  13. Janicak, Philip G, and Mehmet E Dokucu. “Transcranial magnetic stimulation for the treatment of major depression.” Neuropsychiatric disease and treatment vol. 11 1549-60. 26 Jun. 2015, doi:10.2147/NDT.S67477
  14. Israel, Lindsay. “TMS Therapy: Potential Side Effects and Risks of TMS | (2022).” Success TMS, 13 Jan. 2022, successtms.com/blog/tms-risks.
  15. Porter, Robert. “What Does TMS Therapy Cost? TMS Information | BetterHelp Advice.” Betterhelp, BetterHelp, 20 Apr. 2022, www.betterhelp.com/advice/therapy/how-much-does-tms-therapy-cost

If you suspect that you or someone you love suffers from mental health disorders, contact Athena Care today.

One of our friendly associates will help you get the help you need. Take this first step to feel better and take control. 

(615) 320-1155