By Rachel Dutil | Photo by Jessica McCafferty
Issue: September 2022
Rebecca Boire-West admits that she is “addicted to learning.” She is also not afraid of change. Boire-West had a successful career in the pharmaceutical industry that was no longer fulfilling her, so she became a Zumba instructor and then a personal trainer, then decided to go to massage therapy school when her children were teenagers. She is now a medical massage therapist and certified health coach and owns Body in Balance in Plattsburgh.
Boire-West is the youngest of seven and grew up on a dairy farm in Champlain where she learned the value of hard work. She played team sports through high school and found herself struggling to find an appropriate physical activity as an adult. She loved dancing and fell in love with Zumba – Latin-inspired cardio dance workouts. She became an instructor and went on to become a personal trainer. “I became very interested in the human body and movement,” she said.
Massage therapy impacts every system of the body and can help work out the imbalances that cause pain. Boire-West observed that massage is often thought of as a luxury, but it can also be an important tool for pain management.
As a certified medical massage therapist, Boire-West treats diagnosed medical conditions with massage. “I have a lot of advanced training in specialized diagnoses,” she said. Unfortunately, Boire-West’s services are not covered by insurance in New York State.
Although massage therapy could technically be considered a form of alternative medicine, she prefers to refer to it as complementary medicine. Massage “complements traditional medicine in multiple ways and gives people another approach especially if looking for something that does not come with negative side effects.”
She works as a liaison between her patients and their health care providers. She has had several patients whom she suspected had a medical condition and encouraged them to see their practitioner for treatment. She has helped to identify blood clots, instances of skin cancer and cases of SIBO – small intestinal bowel overgrowth. “It’s very gratifying,” she said.
“I am not afraid to pick up the phone and call somebody. I am not afraid to refer patients to other care.” She has encouraged patients to seek chiropractic care, acupuncture, physical therapy, stretch therapy, and more. “I work with other body workers,” she said, explaining that if a patient seems to be responding well to a technique or modality that isn’t her specialty, she will make a recommendation to another local provider who specializes in that area.
She advises patients to do certain stretches or exercises in between appointments to help alleviate pain. “My main priority is to get to the root cause” of a patient’s pain, Boire-West said. “I don’t want them to have to come to me all the time to get them out of pain.”
“What I do is the best job ever, because no matter how awful patients feel when they walk in the door, they are so grateful when they leave.”
Boire-West’s path to health coaching was initiated by her sister’s struggle with ulcerative colitis – an nflammatory bowel disease that affects the large intestine and causes inflammation in the colon. “For almost 10 years, I watched her life as she knew it get stripped away as her symptoms incapacitated her at times,” Boire-West said. “She was put on every medication known to treat the disorder, hospitalized, given special diets, and administered experimental drugs all to no avail.”
Boire-West started researching and homed in on diet, nutrition and lifestyle changes that could positively impact her sister’s condition. “As I learned how to nourish the body through nutrition and balance it physiologically, I shared the information with my sister and experimented with implementing changes for myself.” After she completed a year-long program through the Institute for Integrative Nutrition that gave her a fantastic basis of how to eat well, she was able to heal herself.” Symptoms that she shrugged off as hereditary or part of aging improved. Currently her sister has been free of flare-ups and is managing her ulcerative colitis through lifestyle and diet.
Boire-West continued in a two-year training program with nutritionist Andrea Nakayama. “I learned about the complexities of the human body at a cellular level which helped me to understand why one dietary approach may have completely the opposite effect on someone with the same diagnosis.”
Of both the massage therapy and the health coaching sides of her business, Boire-West said, “I’m the last stop.” In most cases, her patients have sought a multitude of other medical treatments and options and are then referred to her. Boire-West enjoys the challenges that come through her door and pours through research to try and come to the root cause of a patient’s pain or figure out a way to alleviate symptoms.
“I’ve never stopped learning, I still continue to learn,” she said, adding that she enjoys reading and researching in her free time. She is fascinated by the human body, how to better understand how all the systems are interconnected and truly enjoys the challenge of solving puzzles.
Body in Balance offers patients hope and Boire-West works to empower her patients to feel their best. She often tells them, “Motion is lotion and we need to move often” but adds that in order to move often, it is important to be able to move well.
“I start with one thing and then I always go back to my Mary Poppins bag with different techniques and different tools, different ways of thinking.” She likened it to peeling away the layers of an onion to get to the root cause of pain or inflammation.
“I love helping and seeing people progress to the point where they can live their best life by reducing or eliminating pain or unwanted health symptoms. There is no better feeling than when a person reports that their symptoms or pain have been eliminated or reduced and they are able to enjoy the things again that they thought were no longer possible.”
One thing that has come from the pandemic is that people seem to be more interested in caring for themselves and are looking to lower their stress levels and take better care of themselves, Boire-West concluded.
Body in Balance
39 Court Street
Plattsburgh, NY 12901