Drug-free treatment a revelation

A PSYCHIATRIST using a ground-breaking drug-free treatment for depression and anxiety has opened a one-of-a-kind clinic in Palmyra.The non-invasive Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation uses electromagnetic pulses to treat depression, anxiety, PTSD, OCD, chronic pain and fibromyalgia.

In recent years, non-invasive medical procedures have grown in popularity including the use of localised radiotherapy to treat arthritis, inflammatory conditions and skin conditions like psoriasis.

Opened by psychiatrist Dr Shanek Wick, Neuralia TMS in Palmyra is the first stand-alone outpatient clinic specialising in Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation. 

“I became interested in TMS during my specialist training as a psychiatrist,” he says.

“It was frustrating to see how frequently anti-depressants either didn’t work or caused unbearable side-effects. 

“While medications certainly have their place, they are not suitable for everyone.

“Until TMS, there was nothing to offer patients who had failed drug treatment apart from electroconvulsive therapy, which is only for very severe cases and is very invasive.”

TMS became FDA-approved for depression in 2008, and in 2021 was listed under Medicare for treatment-resistant depression, making it more affordable and accessible.

Targeting the under-active brain regions affected by depression, pain and other mental illnesses, an electromagnetic pulse is directed precisely at the brain to increase neuronal activity and cause long-lasting changes in brain circuitry. 

During treatment, patients experience a light tapping sensation on the scalp. 

Dr Wick says TMS can free patients from a lifetime of drug treatments and unwanted side-effects. 

“I think patients have been drawn to the ‘drug free’ aspect of TMS, usually because they’ve had bad experiences with drugs in the past,” he says.

“TMS is still new in Australia so it will take some time for psychiatrists to fully adopt it, but the evidence for depression is very strong, and for other mental health conditions is very promising.

“TMS is effective because it causes the brain cells to fire – it makes them increase their activity which has been subdued by depression or anxiety or PTSD. “We can see on functional brain scans that these areas become more active after TMS treatment.”Dr Wick says TMS is still generally regarded as a second-line treatment in Australia, but hopefully that situation could change over time.

“This is partly because of its newness compared to medication and psychotherapy. The other reason has been cost – putting TMS on Medicare for treatment-resistant depression means a lot more people have access to it. I hope that in future Medicare includes the many other indications for TMS, especially chronic pain and fibromyalgia.”To find out more go to neuraliatms.com.au

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