Unlike pharmaceutical drugs that often carry harsh side effects ranging from fatigue, weight gain, insomnia, sexual dysfunction and suicidal thoughts, TMS does not have any drug-related side effects because it is a non-invasive procedure. And unlike the oldest brain stimulation therapy, electroconvulsive therapy (ECT), TMS has no effect on memory or mental clarity. It also avoids the negative side effects of sedation required for ECT. TMS is often reported to be free of side effects – and for the majority of patients this is the case. If patients experience any side-effects at all with TMS, they are generally very mild and temporary. The most common side effect is scalp discomfort, or a light headache, during the stimulation procedure. If headaches do occur, they typically respond well to aspirin or ibuprofen and routinely disappear after the first two or three treatments.
Approximately one-third of patients report minor scalp sensations or tingling during the magnetic pulses due to increased blood flow to the area being treated, which also routinely disappear over the course of the treatment. Repositioning the coil and adjusting the stimulation settings can also help to reduce, or eliminate, these mild side effects. The vast majority of patients tolerate TMS very well with less than 5% choosing to discontinue this depression treatment as a result of headaches or scalp discomfort.