It’s time we stop thinking of massage as a treat, and more as an essential treatment. It’s one of those things, like antioxidants and exercise, that has so many benefits for our health that it should be maintenance, not luxury.

“Massage Therapy can reduce the symptoms of your current medical ailments and improve your overall health,” says Susan Stone, owner of Hired Hands Massage in Las Vegas.

Since 1982, Susan has been using her hands to help Vegas natives to work through their ailments, vacationers to relax, and tradeshow attendees to relieve the aches and pains from full days of standing in a booth. That’s general. Here are the specific ways Susan says massage benefits you.

Relieve Your Anxiety
Yep, at least according to this study. When you experience stress, your body releases the hormone cortisol in larger than usual amounts. Massage lowers the amount of cortisol in your body, so it can help you cope during these difficult times. Massage also helps you relax by lowering your blood pressure.

Decrease Your Depression
Research has shown that people with depression have less dopamine and serotonin, brain chemicals that directly influence your mood. Massage can increase the amount of these chemicals that are circulating within your system. The result is that you feel happier after a massage.

Reduce Your Back Pain
Scientists have discovered that massage works just as well as medications in relieving their subjects’ pain. After a massage, people were able to return to their normal activities without experiencing debilitating pain. Those who were stiff noticed that massage also alleviated this symptom. Massage even benefits people with osteoarthritis who discovered that their movements were less restricted after undergoing treatment. In one study of people suffering from chronic low back pain, researchers found that massage may relieve symptoms with benefits lasting up to six months.

Help You Fall Asleep
Scientists have found that massage is directly linked to the body’s delta waves. These brain waves promote deep sleep, and they are the reason that people often fall asleep when they are enjoying a good massage.

Improve the Functioning of Your Immune System
When the system works properly, it identifies parasites, bacteria and viruses and destroys them before they can cause harm to the body. Massage therapy has been shown to improve the functioning of your immune system by increasing the number of white blood cells that are circulating within your system.