Many book lovers are familiar with the bestseller co-authored by Facebook CEO Sheryl Sandberg, Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead. The basic premise of the book is simple: in order to succeed in the work world and strike a balance between career and family, says Sandberg , women need to fully engage or “lean in.”

Strangely enough, the same advice is helpful – quite literally – for runners to achieve knee pain relief. Leaning forward can alleviate pain by reducing the load on the joints, according to recent research in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise.

“Lean in” to alleviate chronic pain

“When you shift the center mass of your body forward,” comments lead author Dr. Christopher Powers of the University of Southern California, “it reduces the torque at your knee and instead puts the weight into your hips.”

Many of those with an active lifestyle experience joint pain. The standard method to reduce symptoms of runner’s knee has been to modify one’s form so that each stride hits the ground at the front or middle of the foot rather than the heel. Actually, Powers argues, that corrective technique can be dangerous.

Moving the impact to the forefoot or midfoot diminishes the knee load, but it also increases the ankle load. In trying to relieve your knee pain by striking the ground differently, you may end up with achilles tendinitis or other ankle conditions. By tilting your torso forward instead, you move excess knee pressure to the hips rather than the ankles.

A subtle tweak

Keep in mind that this knee pain relief technique is a subtle tweak. Bend at your hip just a bit more, so that your torso is 7° to 10° farther forward.

“It’s very minimal,” says Powers, “and you don’t want to overdo it and lean too far forward.”

The researcher, codirector of the Musculoskeletal Biomechanics Laboratory at USC, notes that you may have trouble actively incorporating a relatively minor shift into your running posture. Working with a trained professional such as a physical therapist can help.

Powers mentioned that the other benefit of working with a physical therapist is that they can assess your running form generally so that your active lifestyle isn’t a threat to your joint health. You may be able to adjust your running style with just one appointment, although follow-ups can help you keep from returning to your old form.

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