TMS & Other Therapies

HIFU Therapy versus TMS Therapy: What’s the Difference?

June 4, 2021

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Image courtesy of Australian Skin Clinics.

With mental health at an all time low and physical health a primary concern due to the ongoing global COVID-19 pandemic, it’s important to not only know about what the options available to you are but also to understand the differences between those options.

TMS therapy and HIFU therapy are both not too widely known about, but they’ve come into the limelight more and more as more people try them and find that they have a positive impact on whatever mental or physical health issues they’re currently facing.

The two should never be confused, however, as they couldn’t be more different. While the non-invasive processes and lack of needed recovery time of each may resemble each other, that’s where the similarities end. In fact, the two methods for treatment are for two entirely different purposes.

Keep reading to learn more about both methods of therapy, because one of them might be right for you!

What is TMS Therapy?

TMS therapy, or Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation therapy, is a noninvasive method of improving symptoms of depression in the brain. It’s typically proposed by medical professionals if antidepressants and standard therapy haven’t had the desired effect.

The procedure is fairly simple and not very painful with limited risk of side effects. A magnetic coil will be placed on the skull close to the forehead, and it will create a magnetic field designed to send stimulus to the specific parts of your brain that are negatively impacted by depression.

An image of a doctor looking at a monitor connected to a TMS machine that is resting on a patient's head.
The machine used to perform TMS therapy will be placed on a specific section of your head in order to stimulate the area of your brain affected by the symptoms of depression. You don’t need to be asleep for the procedure, and it’s incredibly simple. Image courtesy of American Behavioral Clinics.

More research needs to be done still on how exactly it happens, but it has been shown that TMS therapy can greatly improve the moods of those who are struggling with depression.

TMS is often confused with ECT, or electroconvulsive therapy, which also may be used when other methods of combating depression have had little success, but that’s where the similarities end. The two are very different— ECT has a much higher risk of causing a seizure, and it also requires anesthesia.

You can remain awake for TMS therapy, and it’s not a surgical procedure. It’s generally considered to be very safe, but it has been known to have some mild side effects such as headaches, lightheadedness, discomfort in the area that was stimulated, and twitching of the facial muscles.

Side effects have been found to decrease over time and with additional treatment, as the circumstances of your TMS therapy can be adjusted based on your specific needs, and multiple sessions are typically required for results.

An image of a doctor holding part of a TMS device to a patient's head. Both doctor and patient have very serious expressions.
TMS therapy may look scary, since it involves a machine being placed on your head, but in reality the whole process is very safe with only minimal risks and pain involved. It’s also an incredibly fast process. Image courtesy of NPHLIFE.

Still, you should let your doctor know if you experience any of these as well as any other side effects, though anything more serious than these symptoms is very rare.

You should talk about your doctor through every step of TMS therapy, because they won’t recommend it unless they believe it’s right for you. If you think TMS therapy might be the answer to your mental health problems, you’ll have to undergo both a physical and psychiatric exam.

What is HIFU Therapy?

High Intensity Focused Ultrasound therapy, more commonly referred to as HIFU therapy, is not solely for mental health purposes but can have an indirect positive effect on things such as low self esteem.

The procedure essentially works as a non-invasive, non-surgical facelift— the machine doctors use to perform this type of therapy works as a skin tightener. It’s a quick process and requires no recovery time. In some cases, results can be seen immediately. In others it can take much longer and multiple sessions.

HIFU therapy focuses on the layers of your skin and boosts collagen production and regeneration. It’s been found to improve your skin’s tone, brightness, elasticity, and pores.

It can help with both wrinkles and weight loss, as some HIFU devices are not only capable of tightening the skin but also targeting and destroying fat cells within it.

An image of a woman's face while a gloved hand runs a machine over it. her face appears to be covered in some sort of cream which is to protect her from the HIFU device, and she's wearing a hairnet.
HIFU therapy is also a quick and non-invasive process that doesn’t require you to be put under. It may look a bit frightening, and it’s certainly not for everyone, but it’s actually much less of an intense process than the alternative of plastic surgery which would have similar results. Image courtesy of healthline.

It can have many of the results of plastic surgery with none of the risks associated with going “under the knife,” such as infection, scarring, swelling, and more. The only common side effects with HIFU therapy are mild redness and bruising, but even those are fairly rare.

The process can be a bit painful, but patients typically describe it as a very tolerable, small amount of pain that resembles pins and needles more than anything else.

There are many HIFU devices out there, so if you think that HIFU therapy might be the right choice for you, it’s important to do your own research. An example of a reputable HIFU device is the ULTRAFORMER III. And of course, it’s important that you’re receiving treatment from a licensed professional.

Which is right for you?

Clearly, TMS and HIFU therapy were created for very different purposes, but both are procedures that can be a big help and are far less complex than other options available in each area.

It’s very possible that one or even both of these types of therapy is right for you! It’s also possible that you’ll choose to do neither, which is also perfectly all right, but it’s always important to be informed.

TMS therapy, on the one hand, may be the right choice for you if you’re struggling with depression and haven’t found anything that helps you with the symptoms yet. Talk to your doctor about your options, and bring up TMS therapy if it’s something that interests you. 

An image of a doctor and a patient sitting at a table from the shoulders down. The doctor is gesturing at something on a clipboard with a pen and the patient is looking at it.
Above all, it’s important to consult with a medical health professional before pursuing either TMS or HIFU therapy. If one, both, or neither of these types of treatment are right for you, your doctor is the best person to tell you that. Image courtesy of BCS Pharmacy.

It’s a fairly inexpensive and quick procedure, and it’ll be worth the minor amount of discomfort you may experience if it has a positive impact on your mental health.

HIFU therapy is an entirely different kind of “therapy,” and not targeted towards mental health at all, though body image and mental health are very often related to each other.

If you’re struggling with body image and you believe HIFU therapy may help you with that, it’s also something you can talk to your doctor about. You should be aware, however, that it’s a skin tightening procedure and not magic. It won’t stop you from aging or magically cause you to lose a massive amount of weight.

HIFU therapy is far more expensive, and typically costs more than plastic surgery— which it resembles far more than any kind of therapy, and so HIFU therapy could more accurately be called HIFU treatment. However, for some the price is worth it due to the lack of a need for a recovery time and far less severe side effects.

An image of a sad woman with dark hair sitting outside and resting her face in one of her hands.
Reasonings for being down may vary, and so treatment will naturally vary, too. If you’ve found yourself experiencing symptoms of depression and other solutions aren’t working for you, consider TMS therapy. HIFU therapy is not intended as a mental health treatment.

Chances are, if you’re looking into one of these options you’re not considering the other, since they have such drastically different purposes. Unfortunately, though, the two are confused with each other sometimes due to the non-invasive and quick way both TMS and HIFU therapy go about treating the problem which they were created to combat.

You shouldn’t be looking into TMS therapy and HIFU therapy for solutions for the same issue, as the two are incredibly different. If you’re feeling depressed even as a result of body image, TMS therapy is a better option than HIFU therapy.

HIFU therapy isn’t a solution for mental health issues— it’s meant as a means of getting rid of wrinkles or fat, but if your wish to eliminate either of those things is rooted in lack of treatment for mental health then it won’t fix your problem. Both should be carefully considered before you choose to act on either.

The best thing to do if you are looking into or thinking about scheduling one of these types of procedures for yourself is to talk to a medical professional. If your doctor thinks that one of these is right for you, too, then by all means try it out!

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