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Does TMS hurt? Many people wonder about TMS therapy’s potential pain and side effects. This article will explore the pain factor associated with TMS therapy, addressing concerns and misconceptions about its pain. You will also learn more about the potential benefits and individual experiences you can expect. 

Announcement: TMS (Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation) is a form of therapy that uses a magnetic pulse to stimulate nerve cells.  

TMS is a non-invasive procedure that does not require surgery or penetrating the skin. Instead, it relies on magnetic fields to stimulate nerves in specific parts of the brain. This type of treatment is designed for things like major depressive disorder, PTSD, and OCD when other treatments are not effective. 

This form of treatment is designed to serve as one part of a comprehensive treatment plan. It is still essential that individual clients utilize lifestyle changes such as improved exercise and nutrition in addition to therapy to achieve maximum results with TMS treatment.

Despite any discomfort that might be experienced during or after sessions, several positive outcomes are associated with TMS therapy. Professionals with whom you work should help manage your discomfort during your sessions and facilitate open communication with you before your sessions to manage your expectations and help you reduce any anxiety.

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Is TMS Therapy Painful? What Can I Expect?

When you first start TMS therapy, you might be asking, “Is TMS painful” because it involves pulses shot into the brain. However, most people find that TMS therapy hurts in a relatively small amount and is mostly just a unique sensation of feeling something tapping your scalp.

Moreover, many people experience desensitization in the area after several sessions, so for clients participating in 20-40 sessions, the discomfort might go away after the first few sessions. 

Does TMS Hurt Each Time?

TMS relies on an electromagnetic coil that is rested against the scalp. This creates a magnetic field that targets specific parts of the brain, the parts of the brain associated with mood disorders.

Many clients find that any initial discomfort they feel goes away after several sessions because they become accustomed to the unique sensations and what to expect.

How Does TMS Work and Does TMS Therapy Hurt?

Pain is highly individualized. Several factors can impact how you feel pain and how sensitive you are to pain, such as:

  • Culture
  • Lifestyle
  • Gender
  • Life events

For example, someone who has woken up in the middle of heart surgery might have a much higher threshold for pain and consider something as simple as a flicking sensation on the scalp to be completely painless. 

Someone who rock climbs regularly might not have as much sensitivity in their hands or some of their joints. Women who have given birth multiple times May similarly not consider certain things to be very painful.

So pain is highly relative, and many people don’t categorize the feelings during TMS sessions as painful but rather unique or mildly uncomfortable when they start. What you feel during a session will not only be individualized but might change throughout several sessions. 

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Conditions that TMS is used to treat

TMS is often used to treat:

  • Depression
  • PTSD
  • OCD

Once the device is placed on your skull, it produces magnetic pulses that can activate areas of the brain that are struggling with decreased activity, leading to depression. 

These brief magnetic pulses last approximately 50 microseconds. Changes in the electrical current that’s moving through the coil and onto your scalp can be used repetitively, with adjustments made to the frequency based on your needs. 

In many cases, symptoms of major depression or PTSD are caused by areas of the brain in the prefrontal cortex not receiving enough blood flow, which can interrupt regular function. This magnetic stimulation encourages blood flow to that area and can reverse the symptoms. 

Dispelling misconceptions about TMS and pain

When people ask, “Is TMS therapy painful,” they usually confuse pain with discomfort. Studies have found that while most people experience discomfort, there can be pain. 

Because the sensation is akin to something repeatedly touching the scalp or the head, it can be uncomfortable at first, but there are strategies you can use to lessen discomfort.


Distractions can help you keep your mind off any discomfort you might feel. You can bring things like books or magazines, listen to lectures, or bring devices that you can use to physically distract yourself from fidgeting.

Adjusting the Coil Position

If you feel uncomfortable, you can always work with the person in charge of your session to adjust the coil position or the seat in which you are resting. The intensity of the magnetic can be adjusted too, which might help reduce the discomfort at the scalp. 

All of this can make you feel physically at ease during your sessions.


For those who are inclined, meditation can prove useful in such situations to help you acknowledge the discomfort you are feeling and accept it without judgment. If you experience side effects after your sessions, like headaches or discomfort at the site of the magnetic impulse, it might be worth considering taking over-the-counter medication before you arrive at your next session.


This can fall under the category of distractions, but sometimes talking on the phone or to the person in charge of your session can help you stay distracted. Don’t hesitate to ask about what is happening during your session. 

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Overall, there are several positive outcomes to be gained from TMS treatment, despite any discomfort you might experience. The professionals in charge of your treatment also play a role in managing that discomfort, so you should be at ease about attending your therapy. 

If you have any hesitations about pain or discomfort, don’t be afraid to talk about them with your healthcare provider. They should work with you to manage your expectations and reduce anxiety regarding TMS treatment.