February 6, 2012

Does Magnetic Therapy Work?

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Joseph V. Madia, MD By:

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Magnetic therapy for treating major depressive disorder increases

(dailyRx News) Sometimes Nan Miller couldn't get out of bed or eat. She had failed nine antidepressants and suffered increasingly severe cycles of depression over seven years.

"I just wanted to die," she said. And then she went into magnetic therapy, which gave her far superior results.

"Ask your doctor about magnetic therapy for depression."

Miller had even tried electroconvulsive therapy (formerly known as electroshock) before trying a relatively new treatment called transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS). TMS sends short pulses of magnetic fields to the brain. Miller felt the positive results after a few weeks.

"I could almost hear the chains breaking, the darkness lifting and the heaviness dissolving," she said. "I feel about 10 years younger and 20 shades lighter."

TMS received a boost when the Food and Drug Administration approved it in 2009 for patients with major depression and for whom antidepressants failed to work. One of the first centers to provide the treatment was Loyola University Medical Center; there are currently nearly 300 centers in the U.S. providing TMS.

Now, Medicare has announced that it will cover the procedure in Illinois. Dr. Murali Rao of Loyola says the treatment is rapidly gaining momentum. About two-thirds of Dr. Rao's patients who receive TMS have reported significantly decreased depressive symptoms - or even that their depression has gone away completely.

During the treatment, which lasts 35 to 40 minutes, the patient reclines in a comfortable chair while a magnetic coil placed next to the head sends short pulses of magnetic fields to the surface of the brain. This stimulates the brain cells and affect the mood-regulatory circuits deeper inside the brain.

TMS treatment does not require anesthesia or sedation and patients can immediately resume normal activities. Most patients undergo three treatments per week for four to six weeks. Side effects include mild headache or tingling in the scalp, which can be treated with Tylenol. 

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Reviewed by: 
Joseph V. Madia, MD
Review Date: 
February 5, 2012

Last Updated:
February 6, 2012