Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) involves a coil that is applied against the head in order to send weak electrical pulses to the brain. These electrical pulses can temporarily activate or disrupt brain activity.
Repetitive TMS (rTMS) involves continuous electrical pulses to the brain and can create long-term changes in the brain. Recently, rTMS was used in a study to treat spasticity (muscle spasms, exaggerated reflexes) in spinal cord injury patients. After five days of daily rTMS treatment (in which the coil was placed over the motor cortex of the brain), the patients saw significant improvement in spasticity, which lasted at least a week after discontinuing treatment.
TMS and rTMS are in the testing phase for therapeutic purposes in several indications. TMS has currently been approved by the FDA for the treatment of depression, and will likely be approved for other uses-such as spasticity-in the near future.
Kumru H, Murillo N, Samso JV, et al. Reduction of spasticity with repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation in patients with spinal cord injury. Neurorehabilitation and Neural Repair. July 2010.