RPM Physiotherapy

Category Archives: Stretches

Osteopathic Relief for Infants and New Mothers

The first few weeks of motherhood are extremely demanding and involves an incredible amount of learning. Almost all care is transferred onto the baby as parents attempt to dissect each little squeak, leg jolt, and cry in hopes of understanding what their newborn needs. As the week’s progress in the postnatal period, a remarkable instinctual communication develops between newborns and their mothers. BUT what if, your newborn is inconsolable at times and is crying due to something beyond your control? The urgency to figure it out can generate pressure, self-criticism and eventually self-doubt amongst new mothers.


There is an insane amount of pressure on new mothers!  As a practicing birth doula, I acknowledge that the pressure on new mothers begins during the early stages of pregnancy. A common question like, “will you be delivering naturally?” might suggest to an expecting mother, that a delivery method other than a completely medication free, vaginal, home birth is subpar or not natural.


The presence and accessibility to social media, and constant exposure to the “ideal” pregnancy, delivery and motherhood make it difficult for mothers not to question or doubt their parenting skills. Pressure to provide the best care continues into the postnatal phase, such as the pressure to breast feed exclusively, that is, if you are lucky enough to produce enough milk, and have your baby latch…Let’s tack on more pressure and more judgment! I have witnessed new mothers feeling guilty for their inability to soothe their colicky newborn while attending my postnatal fitness class.

I have good news. Osteopathy, specifically cranial-sacral therapy, has been extremely effective at relieving and lessening the numerous symptoms that newborns display and cause tons of distress for parents. Osteopathy offers a non-invasive solution to empower and relieve newborns and their mothers! First:


What Is Osteopathy?
Osteopathic manual therapy is an alternative medicine, often recommended for the relief of musculoskeletal dysfunctions and pain management. However, the scope of practice extends to the treatment of respiratory and digestive issues, menstrual irregularities, migraines, headaches, insomnia, anxiety, depression and peripheral or local pain management. 


Osteopathy is a natural form of medicine which views the body as one interdependent and continuous system. Theoretically, osteopathy aims to restore normality and function throughout the entire body by determining the cause of imbalance and discomfort. The treatment itself involves a subtle, intuitive manual manipulation of bone and soft tissue within the bodies’ limitations. An Osteopath will use a light tactile pressure to find increased musculoskeletal tone and work to release any tensions with a very slight palpation.  

Osteopathy for Infants and Paediatrics

Currently trending amongst midwives and numerous health practitioners is cranial-sacral osteopathy for newborns and babies. It is now recommended that new mothers make a visit to their friendly osteopathic practitioner to assess and correct any strains or trauma the baby may have endured during birth. As babies make their exit, their heads must rotate, compress and narrow, this is referred to as “molding” of the soft baby cranium. In some cases, the re-inflation or un-molding process can be incomplete. A difficult birth, such as one which required forceps, vacuum delivery, an especially lengthy labor followed by emergency caesarean most commonly contribute to cranial compression and incomplete re-inflation. 


Many symptoms which are commonly observed in newborns, such as: inconsolable crying for hours at a time, clenched first, belly gurgling, poor sleep patterns, knees tucked, latching or feeding difficulties, discomfort with “tummy-time” may all be associated unresolved cranial compression. More specifically, the compression of the back of the skull, at the occiput can put too much pressure on the hypoglossal, glossopharyngeal and vagus nerves. All these cranial nerves help stimulate the tongue for latching. The vagus nerve alone is responsible sending motor and sensory stimulation the almost every organ in the body, especially the digestive organs.


Osteopathic intervention, specifically cranial-sacral therapy immediately following birth has been very beneficial for the relief of the following difficulties during infancy:


Gastroesophageal reflux (GER)
GER results in crying, vomiting and discomfort after eating. Primarily, reflux has been linked to the vagus nerve, as it relates to the opening and closing of the lower esophageal sphincter as it connects to the stomach. Gemelli, Ulbricht & Romaneli (2014), observed the cessation of all regurgitation and crying after feeding in four infants after they received Osteopathic treatment over a twenty-eight-day period.



Some common signs of colic include: flatulence, gurgling tummies, clenched fists and knees drawn into their chest. Osteopaths Hayden & Mullinger (2006) defined infant colic as at least 90 minutes of inconsolable crying over 24 hours on 5 out of the 7 days of the week! Inconsolable meaning: no holding, rocking, walking could soothe the infant.

After four weeks of cranial-sacral therapy 12 out of 14 infants no longer required treatment for colic symptoms and the remaining two displayed only mild colic like symptoms.



The term “Plagiocephaly” refers to an asymmetrical cranium, more specifically Occipital Plagiocephaly, refers to the flattening of the Occipital bone, what you may think of as the back of your skull. Since the initiation of the “Back to Sleep” foundation in 1992, which encouraged placing newborns on their back for sleeping in order to prevent the occurrence of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), there has been an increasing prevalence of occipital flattening in newborns. Lessard, Gagnon, & Trottier (2011), reported a significant decrease in cranial asymmetries after a total of four Osteopathic interventions. In addition to Osteopathic intervention, you may want to encourage tummy-time, first to counter act the flattening of the back of the head, but also for the added benefit of postural and core muscle conditioning.


Let’s not forget that the theory of Osteopathy suggests that the body tends towards normality. Naturally, these resilient little bodies can resolve many of the issues on their own. However, Osteopathic treatment can help speed up this potentially long and uncomfortable process; enabling more space for a happy and healthy development! 

Florence Bowen

Florence was first introduced to alternative therapeutic modalities in her teens, as a dancer and competitive athlete. After high school, Florence furthered her dance training and obtained her Honors Bachelor of Science in Kinesiology from McMaster University. Teaming up with the artistic director of the McMaster University contemporary dance company, she developed introductory dance classes for children and teens across Hamilton. Inspired to further her teaching skill-set, she obtained her yoga teacher certification in Hatha yoga. Florence teaches across the city and combines her knowledge of human kinetics, dance, strength and conditioning, and yoga. Teaching movement to pre and postnatal women, and coaching as a birth doula, she gained a unique perspective into the supportive systems available to new and expecting mothers. Florence has an affinity for the holistic approach to women’s care. She is passionate about the assimilation of progressive knowledge to educate and empower women at any stage of life including: pre-conception, pregnancy and recovery after birth. Most recently, Florence completed her five years of study at the Canadian College of Osteopathy in Toronto. As a manual therapist, she believes in having her patients actively participate in their healing. She currently is working to complete her thesis which will examine how osteopathic treatment effects diastasis-recti abdominus in postnatal women.


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Avoiding Shoulder Injury This Tennis Season

Let’s do some quick math to start:


(past history of sport) + (current desk jockey career) + (public tennis courts) + (the human ability to ‘over-do’ it) = ????


Though this math seems a bit unorthodox, I’m sure you can extrapolate from the title that this can result in injury. Shoulder injuries, in particular, are common in overhead sports such as tennis, swimming, and baseball. When looking closely at the overhead serve in tennis, there is great complexity to it with involvement from your ENTIRE body. If one or more areas are lacking in strength or technique, often times we will see an increase in arm speed to maintain power with a resultant increased risk for shoulder injuries (among others… but lets focus here today).


Here are six tips to help keep you on the court this season:

Proper warm-up → we all know we need to do it, so just do it! This should be a full body warm-up and can include activity while NOT holding onto a tennis racket. When you are hitting balls, ensure you are using your legs and core to generate power and to progressively increase your racket speed. Don’t start your warm-up with big serves.

Build up your weekly tennis frequency → It’s great that you are active, but most people can’t go from zero days a week to multiple days a week of tennis without feeling sore or setting themselves up for future injury (consider tips 4 and 5 for options to stay active in the early season). On top of this, give yourself intermittent breaks to recover during the match to reduce the amount of time you play fatigued.  

Opt for ball placement over power → I’m definitely better at watching tennis than playing, and what I’ve learned is that a higher first serve percentage typically equates to winning the match. Bring down your serve speed, work on your ball placement, and save your shoulder.

Cross-training → This is a must, and there are a LOT of options. If I am being picky, I would suggest reducing the amount of prolonged gripping and overhead motion in your cross-training program. As a starting point, consider cycling and body weight exercises as a way to maintain aerobic endurance and strength.

Sport-specific training → This type of training is more relevant to the advanced tennis athlete, and where complexity of programming really takes shape. An example is provided here:


This exercise may look simple, but subtle errors in exercise technique will also appear when performing the tennis swing and serve. Add repetition with poor technique and this is where shoulder injuries flourish. Careers are spent building and implementing these programs, so I strongly advise a consultation with a physiotherapist or strength and conditioning specialist if you would like to explore this type of training

Consider taking a few tennis lessons → Humans are like cars. You need to change the oil, replace a few filters here and there, and even upgrade the sound system; I’ll let you decide what the tennis equivalents are to those.  Allow a critical eye to observe your game, fine-tune your swing, and help reduce your injury risk.


That’s it! I hope you are able to implement some of the tips above and keep yourself playing tennis throughout the season. If you have concerns regarding your swing, injury, or pains affecting your tennis game, coming in for a detailed biomechanical assessment will bring you one step closer to avoiding injury and improving your body’s tolerance of the sport. Highlighting and resolving biomechanical and strength deficits is something that can’t be done by reading this blog, so please use our expertise appropriately.



  1. FifthSet International. 2012, Nov 21. Prepping like a Pro: Core Training for Tennis Players. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iuvFgyHILyY



Jordan is a graduate of the University of Toronto Physiotherapy program and has since been practicing in orthopaedic settings. He has developed an interest in sports physiotherapy through his many years as an athlete, participating in baseball, golf, snowboarding, and more recently rock-climbing, cycling, and strength training.  He is dedicated to improving mobility, optimizing function, and strengthening to help achieve your goals through the use of manual therapy and individualized exercise prescription. He also has additional training in acupuncture and sports taping.


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Pain Down There?

So you have pain down there, and like many people, you don’t know what to do about it. Many women ignore their pelvic pain for reasons such as – they are embarrassed, they hope it will go away or they think it’s normal to have pain (especially after having

Pelvic pain is NOT normal and should be assessed by a professional.

Pelvic pain may be associated with or caused by one of the following:

  • A long or complicated labour, C-section scars or episiotomies
  • Dyspareunia (pain with sex)
  • Dysmennorhea (painful periods)
  • Pudendal Nerve Irritation
  • Sacroiliac Joint Dysunfction
  • Interstitial Cystitis
  • Vaginismus
  • Vulvodynia
  • Endometriosis
  • Polycystic Ovary Syndrome

If you think you might have one of the conditions above, you most likely have high tone (or tightness) in your pelvic floor. Other than pain, pelvic hypertonicity may cause symptoms such as:

  • Incontinence
  • Urinary or fecal urgency, incomplete voiding or hesitancy
  • Constipation or straining with bowel movements
  • Unexplained pain in your low back, hips or groin

And much more…

So what should you do? First of all, STOP doing your kegels! Many people think that they can resolve their pelvic issue by strengthening their pelvic floor. Other than the fact that you’re probably not doing them properly, kegels can actually make matters worse. A tight pelvic floor requires relaxation and lengthening first in order to prepare the muscles for strengthening later on – and we can help with that! Make an appointment with a pelvic health physiotherapist for a full assessment and a
start on the road to pelvic recovery!

Sandra Ghaly – Pelvic Floor & Paediatric Physiotherapist

Sandra graduated from Dalhousie University with a Masters degree in Physiotherapy after completing her Bachelor of Kinesiology degree with honours from McMaster University. She has worked with a variety of clientele but has developed a true passion in working with both the paediatric and women’s health populations. Sandra has extensive experience assessing and treating a variety of paediatric conditions and most recently has become certified as a pelvic health physiotherapist. She also has additional training in acupuncture and kinesiotaping. Sandra finds great value in guiding each individual through a tailored rehabilitation program to optimize their function and quality of life.

If you have enjoyed this blog and would like to learn more about health and wellness from our team of expert practitioners, sign up for our mailing list or follow us on facebook and Instagram.

Photo Credit: Emily D Photography

Headshot Photo Credit: Phillipa C Photography


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