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At-Home Mirror Tests to Assess Your Base Functional Level (Part 2)

January 23, 2013

In Part 1 of this blog, we started with two basic tests you can do in front of the mirror to assess your ability to perform the most basic human functions – the toe touch and the squat. I do these and dozens of other tests every day in clinical practice to evaluate a person’s basic functional level before beginning a reconditioning and rehabilitation program.

To get started, go to a room in your home with a full-length mirror. Close the door and strip down to your underwear so you can do a self-assessment in front of the mirror. As I said in Part 1, if you recently had an injury or surgery, like knee or hip surgery, or you’re dealing with a chronic condition, please consult your physician before performing these tests.

Lunge as part of At-Home Mirror TestsLunge

The lunge should be performed where you have something to hold for support in case you lose your balance, whether it’s the bathroom sink or your dresser. Begin in the neutral position, standing up straight, arms at your side, feet at shoulder width.

Take a big step forward and lower your body until the knee of your back leg is a few inches above the floor, keeping your arms at your side and back perpendicular to the floor while staring straight into the mirror. Hold this position for a second, return to the neutral position, and repeat the motion with your other leg in front. If you can repeat this test several times with both legs, you pass.

If you become wobbly as you propel your body forward, or lunge, or you can’t complete the movement without using your arms, this is a sign that your core muscles are destabilized. This prevents you from having the balance or strength to complete the test

One Foot Stand as part of At-Home Mirror Tests

One Foot Stands

Take off your shoes and stand on one foot as shown in the picture. Do this for 30 seconds while staring directly into the mirror, eyeball to eyeball. Do this on your left foot and your right foot.

As simple as this sounds, one foot stands help to measure your coordination and intrinsic strength. If you find yourself wobbling, stop doing it. This is a sign of imbalance caused by neuromuscular destabilization and core weakness. Neuromuscular re-education is needed.

back scratch as part of At-Home Mirror Tests

Back Scratch

Take your left hand and, reach over your left shoulder behind your head, and touch the top of your left scapula (shoulder blade). Then, move your arm like someone is putting handcuffs on you, reaching underneath behind your back with your left hand and touch the bottom of your right scapulae.  Repeat with the right hand.

This test measures the flexibility and range of motion in your shoulder and rotator cuff muscles. If you can’t reach your scapula or you experience pain while doing so, this is a sign of tightness in the shoulder and limited motion leads to dysfunction and pain.

Sit Up as part of At-Home Mirror Tests


This is not like the sit-ups we did in high school gym class, which were bogus because of the strain they put on your lower back from constant repetition. This is a test to assess the strength of the abdominal wall and antagonistic balance with the hip flexor.

Lie on the floor, arms crossed on your chest, legs bent, feet flat on the ground. Raise the middle of your back off the floor to an upright position. If you can complete this movement while keeping your feet flat on the floor, you pass the test. If your feet pop off the floor, it’s a sign of weakness in your abdominal wall and your hip flexors are recruited to compensate.

Remember, if you’re unable to perform these tests, don’t get discouraged, but understand that you’re likely to have some kind of musculoskeletal problem at some point. It’s just like a car that needs an oil change. If you keep driving, you’ll damage the engine.

Now it’s time to take action and take your health back so you can prevent back pain, neck pain and other conditions from developing. See someone who specializes in physical medicine or rehabilitation and remember, if pain radiates down the arm or legs this is an immediate sign to see someone. Do not try to “stretch it out” because it’s a sign of possible nerve involvement.

This is the year of the family, when we’re supporting each other and motivating each other to improve our quality of life. Please share this article with your family and friends, and encourage them to perform their own at-home mirror tests. If you have questions about anything you’ve read here, leave a comment below or on our Facebook page. We love to hear from you and are always eager to answer your questions.

Dr. James Proodian

Dr. James Prood­ian is an accomplished chiropractic physician and health educator who founded Proodian Healthcare Family of Companies to help people feel better, function better, and live longer. His expertise for the past two decades has been in physical rehabilitation, and he has successfully established himself as a spinal specialist. In his practice, he advocates the science of functional medicine, which takes an integrative approach to treating patients by addressing their physical, nutritional, and psychological needs. Alarmed by the escalation of complex, chronic illness in our country, Dr. Proodian has been speaking to companies and organizations through his “Wellness at Work” program since 1994, motivating thousands of people to make positive lifestyle choices and lead healthier, more productive lives. He can be heard weekly on his radio program, “Proodian Healthcare By Design,” on Tandem Radio.

Dr. Proodian

Dr. James Proodian is an accomplished chiropractic physician, health educator, and professional public speaker who founded Proodian Healthcare Family of Companies to help people feel better, function better, and live longer. His expertise is in identifying clinical imbalances and restoring the body to health and functionality. Contact: jproodian@naturalhc.com or (732) 222‑2219.