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According to Lansdown et al in 2012, PCOS patients have a generalized increase in sympathetic nerve activity. Experiments on rodent models have shown that ovarian sympathetic outflow may be increased, and this is accompanied by elevated intra-ovarian synthesis of nerve growth factor (NGF) which may be involved in initiation of ovarian pathology.

There exists a close relationship between NGF and the sympathetic nervous system as it relates to the steroid-induced PCO model. We know that excessive ovarian production of NGF facilitates development of cystic ovarian morphology in mice, and is a feature of PCOS in humans (Dissen et al, 2009).

Studies done by Stener-Victorin et al in 2000 and 2003 demonstrates how acupuncture lowers high ovarian concentration of NGF. These results support the theory that acupuncture inhibits hyperactivity in the sympathetic nervous system.

In a randomized controlled trial (Stener-Victorin, 2009), it was demonstrated that both acupuncture and exercise have a lowering effect on high sympathetic nerve activity in women with PCOS. High sympathetic nerve activity is highly correlated to metabolic and hormonal imbalance in women with PCOS. Acupuncture may work the same way physical exercise does in reducing muscle sympathetic nerve activity. Interestingly, a connection was also found earlier (Sverrisdottir, 2008) that high testosterone level associate closely with high sympathetic nerve activity.

Sources:

  1. Jedel et al, “Impact of electro-acupuncure and physical exercise on hyperandrogenism and oligo/amernorrhea in women with PCOS: a RCT,” Am J Physiol Endorinol Metab. 2011 Jan;300(1):E37-45.
  2. Sverrisdottir, Mogren, Kataoka, Janson, Stener-Victorin, “Is PCOS associated with high sympathetic nerve activity and size at birth?” Am J Physiol Endocrinol Metab 294: E576-E581, 2008.
  3. Stener-Victorin, T. Lundeberg, S. Cajander et al., “Steroid-induced polycystic ovaries in rats: effect of electro-acupuncture on concentrations of endothelin-1 and nerve growth factor (NGF), and expression of NGF mRNA in the ovaries, the adrenal glands, and the central nervous system,” Reproductive Biology and Endocrinology, vol. 1, article 33, 2003.
  4. Stener-Victorin, T. Lundeberg, U. Waldenstrom et al., “Effects of electro-acupuncture on nerve growth factor and ovarian morphology in rats with experimentally induced polycystic ovaries,” Biology of Reproduction, vol. 63, no. 5, pp. 1497–1503, 2000.
  5. GA. Dissen, C. Garcia-Rudaz, A. Paredes, C. Mayer, A. Mayerhofer, and S. R. Ojeda, “Excessive ovarian production of nerve growth factor facilitates development of cystic ovarian morphology in mice and is a feature of polycystic ovarian syndrome in humans.
  6. Andrew Lansdown; D. Aled Rees. The Sympathetic Nervous System in Polycystic Ovary Syndrome: A Novel Therapeutic Target? Clin Endocrinol. 2012;77(6):791-801.