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02nd Nov 2012

Ask The GloHealth Doctor – Your Health Questions Answered

Have you got a health concern on your mind? Every week we'll be tackling the health concerns of readers with the help of our GloHealth Doctor, Doctor Conor Fitzgerald. This week, readers want to know about back pain and adult acne...

Have you got a health concern you’d like some advice on? We’ve got our GloHealth Doctor, Dr. Conor Fitzgerald, on hand every week to answer your questions.* This week he’s talking about back pain and adult acne…

“Hi Doctor, I’m in my mid-30s and I work at a 9-5 desk job. I try and get up throughout the day to stretch but sometimes I just don’t have time. Is there any type of exercise I could do at home in the evenings or mornings? It seems to be the top of my shoulders and back that are most affected. Sometimes when I sit down at home my mid-back freezes for maybe a second or two like a cramp too.”

Thanks for your question. It gives me an opportunity to discuss the recommended guidelines for exercise. Current recommendations for adults in Ireland are 30 minutes of exercise per day performed on most days of the week. The exercise should cause an increase in your heart rate for the period of exercise. 30 minutes may be difficult to spare in the morning but most of us, with a bit of planning, should be able to fit in 30 minutes exercise per day. Walking is an obvious choice, but I always remind my patients that it is essential that there is an increase in their heart rate- otherwise it’s not exercise! 

You mention that you spend a lot of your time at your desk during the day and I suspect posture may be a cause for your neck and shoulder symptoms. Stress can be another cause for neck and shoulder symptoms. Talk to your GP about the mid-back freezing sensation, it sounds like a muscular issue and an examination should confirm this. 

Sometimes medications are helpful but I do think you could benefit greatly from a session of physiotherapy which would improve your posture, and give you a set of neck, back and shoulder strengthening exercises that could be performed at your desk.

Best of luck with the exercise!

“Just wondering if you could help with this problem, I had acne in my teenage years and thought it was just a hormonal, teenage thing. I’m 23 now and still have quite prominent spots on my face. Some of the girls have mentioned the contraceptive pill to me as a cure for acne. I’m wary about taking something like the pill and just want to know what effects it could have on me? Could it actually fix my spot problem?”

Thanks for your question.  Acne typically starts during teenage years but can often persist into one’s twenties and beyond. The good news is there are several  treatment options available, the oral contraceptive pill being just one of those options. Most patients will initially try topical creams which contain an antibiotic such as clindamycin. Some creams are combined with another medication called benzoyl peroxide which has also been shown to improve acne. Other creams contain retinoids which are derived from vitamin A. 

Oral antibiotics taken daily over a period of several months are another valid option. 

The oral contraceptive pill (OCP) is a treatment option also and several OCPs have been shown to improve acne. One, called Dianette, is exclusively licensed for the treatment of acne (though it also works as a contraceptive). 

In severe or difficult to treat acne a dermatologist may recommend isotretinoin (or Roaccutane). 

All medications have a risk of side effects and there are precautions to take while you are being treated for acne; your GP will discuss these with you in detail. 

As you can see there are many treatment options available, the oral contraceptive pill being just one of these. So talk to your GP and together decide which option would best suit you. I hope this information helps.  

If you’ve got a question you want to put to our GloHealth Doctor, just drop us a mail to [email protected] – all emails will be treated in the strictest confidence.

*If you have ongoing concerns about your symptoms, please contact your GP

Dr. Conor Fitzgerald, GloHealth Medical Council


Dr. Conor Fitzgerald studied medicine at UCD, worked in Naas General Hospital and also in the Adelaide & Meath hospital, incorporating the National Childrens’ Hospital, (AMNCH) Tallaght. He trained on the Mid Leinster GP Training Scheme and worked as a GP in Wicklow. Dr. Fitzgerald is currently working in GP practice in Lucan, Co.Dublin.