The Use of Magnetic Therapy in Stroke Recovery

Stroke is the leading cause of permanent disability in the USA. It is caused by an aneurism or a blood clot which interrupts the blood supply to the brain. Stroke victims may suffer with partial paralysis or speech problems after the episode, due to the death of brain cells caused by a lack of oxygen and glucose.

Between 20 and 30% of stroke survivors are left with aphasia, which means they have speech problems, difficulty understanding words, and problems with reading and writing. For decades, the only treatment available to those patients was speech and language therapy, but now there is an exciting new treatment called Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation.

What is TMS?

Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) is the latest therapy that has excited doctors and therapist who treat stroke victims and help them in their recovery process. This non-invasive brain stimulation has been subject to several trials which all report promising improvements in the speed and recovery for those suffering from aphasia after suffering a stroke.

In a Canadian research study, 13 stroke survivors received TMS treatment, stimulating the nerve cells in the brain to aid recovery, and 11 received a fake treatment. The treatment was applied for 20 minutes daily over a 10-day period, followed by 45 minutes of traditional speech and language therapy.

The results were published in Stroke medical journal and reported a three times greater improvement in patients that were given the TMS treatment, compared to those who were not. The most noticeable improvement was in these patients being able to name objects, one of the main problems for those suffering with aphasia.

In a similar study, 10 out of 20 aphasia sufferers were given TMS. Those who had received the magnetic therapy immediately improved by 16.3% compared to those who had the placebo treatment. After two weeks they had improved by 22.6% over those who did not receive the TMS treatment.

How is Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation Administered?

Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation is administered simply using a handheld magnetic coil, which creates electric currents to stimulate the nerve cells in the brain. Like traditional therapy, TMS should be administered within five weeks of the stroke to be most effective.

The treatment temporarily shuts down the functioning parts of the brain, which may become overloaded. This allows the treatment to concentrate on stimulating the damaged cells to relearn the lost language skills.

This process is similar to the treatment for physical stroke rehabilitation, where the unaffected limb is physically immobilized to stimulate the affected limb into activity during the session. Results of these studies showed that the overactive brain circuits also improved in those who received magnetic therapy treatment.

Other benefits of TMS treatment including treating those suffering from depression following a stroke, where the treatment also showed potential, according to a psychiatrist at Lennox hill Hospital, New York.

Rehabilitation experts were cautiously optimistic about the results as they showed earlier and more effective recovery of aphasia after a stroke. Larger clinical trials are now underway. Although the TMS units are expensive, the treatment may have a positive economic impact as stroke sufferers could recover faster and return home sooner.


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