Saturday, April 3, 2010


Early on, I asked both my doctor and my physical therapist if there was anything I could do nutritionally to improve my condition. It's unfortunate, but still very typical, that medical professionals appear to know next to nothing about nutrition. In any case, nobody had a suggestion.

I went snooping around the internet to see if I could find anything. Nutritional supplements are one of those things that snake oil salesmen like to latch onto, and searching the internet turns up a ton of dubious claims.

As for the science, you can find suggestive, but not definitive, research that zinc is important to production of collagen. In rats, anyway.

A few years ago, I kept tabs on my diet. At the time, I appeared to be deficient in zinc. However, I hadn't noticed any issues caused by it, and I've always been reluctant to take supplements without reason, so I didn't do anything to correct the situation.

Is it possible that my zinc deficiency led to frozen shoulder? I suppose so, although I guess there's no way to know for sure. In any case, I decided to start taking a zinc supplement soon after I started physical therapy.

I'm taking chelated zinc (50 mg of zinc amino acid chelate, 333% of the RDA) since it's supposed to be one of the more bioavailable forms of zinc. In addition, since zinc interferes with copper absorption, I'm taking a copper supplement (2 mg of copper gluconate, 100% of the RDA). I take the zinc mid-morning on an empty stomach, since that's supposed to be better for absorption. That typically gives it a couple of hours to float around without a lot of competition. I take the copper later in the day, but not on an empty stomach, since I haven't read anything that indicates that would be useful.

Recall that I had noticed an article about shoulder pain in Nigerians at PubMed. When I first thought about zinc being a possible factor in frozen shoulder, I immediately wondered whether the Nigerian diet might be deficient in zinc, leading to more cases of frozen shoulder in that area of the world. However, it doesn't appear to be the case. Some research by Onianwa, et al, says that "the estimated weighted average dietary intakes for the entire adult population [of Nigeria] were calculated to be 2.64 mg Cu/day and 15.8 mg Zn/day" which is quite near the US RDA for those minerals. So, there are no helpful clues from that research.


  1. I was diagnosed with frozen shoulder in April. By the time I had my MRI & follow up (2.5 weeks) I was in the thawing stage. My dr couldn't believe it. I told him what I was doing & at first he seemed extremely interested, especially when the exam revealed much improved range of motion. I have only had one steroid injection, no physical therapy, and no pain medicines prescribed. My dr. released me saying I could have another injection in 4 months but he didn't think I would need it. When will western medicine wrap it's head around natural therapies. Oh, BTW, today I'm able to put my arm behind my back. That's the last to come back. I think within 1 mo. I'll be able to begin rehabilitating the muscles in my shoulder.

    1. I found your comment using Google but I was unable to find out what you were doing nutritionally? did you write the article on zinc ?
      Can you please let me know what you were doing --or stopped doing ---that helped?
      Thank you

    2. Hi Taube Beckert,

      Karen Kott wrote the comment, not me. I did write the blog post which described the little bit of research I did into zinc.

      My personal exeprience: my frozen shoulder is basically gone at this point. However, I believe it permanently affected the range of motion of my left shoulder. It's not noticeable in everyday use. However, I do notice it when I compare it directly to the range of motion in my right shoulder. For example, lying on my back on the floor, and stretching my arms out above me or to the right, clearly my left shoulder does not stretch into a relaxed position like my right does. I'm not sure if this can eventually be cleared up via physical therapy. I haven't done much to try fixing it, since it doesn't bother me enough to motivate the effort.

      So far as nutrition goes, I think it is possible that a lack of zinc may be a factor in what allowed the disease process to start. But that's all speculation. I don't think that taking zinc helped to "cure" the frozen shoulder. I did take zinc and copper pretty regularly while my shoulder was healing. It has been over 3 years since the problem dissipated. Since then, I've continued to take zinc and copper a couple times a week. It's just speculation whether this does anything useful.

      I should point out that my disease followed the typical course: It progressed to really annoying and painful (waking me up at night) over the course of about 6 months. Then it began to go away after about a year. I did do about 10 sessions of very painful physical therapy. I have my doubts that it helped in the least, and I wonder if it might have actually been bad for it. I feel that any PT which causes that much pain might actually be doing harm. If I had to do it over, I'd do the PT on my own, just going to the limits of pain.

      I did not have to do anything extra for the problem to go away - no cortisone shots, surgery etc. I didn't take medication of any kind, since the pain level did not justify that for me. I don't know how common that is. Eventually the disease just went away... not sure why or if anything nutritional helped.

      If you have this problem, I hope you're as lucky as I am - that it goes away without complications. And maybe Karen will write to explain what she did.

  2. I just heard from a professional that my frozen shoulder (as well as other symptoms I have) have to do with copper disregulation. Especially when it's the right arm. I found your blogpost and think that you are right on point! Thanks for posting

  3. Great article nicely presented and informative article.
    Shoulder Pain Treatment

  4. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.