The oblique muscles, located along the front and sides of the mid torso area of the body, benefit greatly from massage. Whether someone needs a massage for relaxation, to prepare obliques for activity that involves vigorous twisting movements, or to ease muscle contractions, massage can have a powerful impact. You don't have to be a massage therapist to provide a soothing oblique massage, though certain protocols should be followed.
Ask the person you are massaging about any existing medical conditions. It is important that you know about any recent back surgeries, circulatory problems or rib pain before beginning to press and rub along the rib cage. Also ask about possible allergies to any lotions or oils you plan to use to lubricate the skin. Do a small skin patch test if in doubt prior to applying the lubricant to a large surface area.
Request that the person lie in a position that will enable you to reach his side from below the underarm area to the top of the hipbone. There are two sets of oblique muscles -- the internal and external obliques -- located on both sides of the middle torso area, generally running from below the chest to above the waistline and wrapping from the center mid line around the sides. The massage for the lateral obliques can be done with the person facing down or lying on his side. The anterior obliques can only be reached while lying supine, or face-up.
Begin the massage with short, firm strokes to spread the lotion and to assess the oblique tissue. Avoid deep pressure on these thin, flat muscles. If you discover tight, contracted areas, use your thumbs or fingertips to apply short friction strokes to those areas directly. For general relaxation use petrissage -- alternating a downward and upward scooping motion with your hand. Finish with long slow strokes if the goal is relaxation, or with short, vigorous strokes if the goal is to energize or warm up the area.
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Use a moderately firm touch during your massage. The lateral oblique area can be very ticklish in some people and light pressure will cause additional contraction of the muscle. An ideal way to access both obliques is to use the side-lying position. Be sure to use cushions to support the person securely if using this option.
Always verify that the person you are massaging has been cleared by a physician to receive massage, especially if there are circulatory problems. Check for skin conditions that might be worsened by massaging the area. Use proper draping with a towel or sheet when working on the torso to accommodate modesty issues.