If you spend the day slumped over a desk, you may have experienced neck and shoulder pain. This common type of pain may be caused by poor posture and overuse, and the more you use your neck and shoulder muscles, the more tired and vulnerable to strain they become.

Neck and shoulder pain can be acute or chronic, but it is typically not a serious condition and doesn’t usually require immediate medical attention. In most cases, neck and shoulder pain goes away with simple home treatment, including stretching exercises, ice and heat treatment, gentle massage, and over-the-counter pain medication.

If you are also experiencing numbness and/or shooting pain in your arm, swollen glands or lumps in your neck, difficulty swallowing or breathing, or changes in bowel movements, see your doctor as your pain could be the symptom of a more serious condition. In addition, if your pain was caused by an injury, see your doctor immediately. If you cannot move your arm or hand, call 911.

Isolated shoulder pain can be complicated to diagnose and treat, as the shoulder is a large joint with many working parts. Muscles and tendons of the upper arm, collectively known as the “rotator cuff”, may be the culprit. Lifting, repetitive overhead activities, or a traumatic event such as a fall, can cause a rotator cuff strain or tear, resulting in mild to severe pain. Avoid shoulder injuries by strengthening your shoulder muscles and doing gentle range-of-motion exercises. A physical therapist can help you develop a home exercise program.