How to know if you have fully recovered from your ankle sprain: 5 Quick physio tests to check

How to know if you have fully recovered from your ankle sprain: 5 Quick physio tests to check

sprained ankle treatment stretching against lamp post
sprained ankle treatment stretching against lamp post

Ankle sprain is a very common injury. At the same time, it is one of those that has a high chance of reoccurrence. As you might already experience, each ankle sprain means a few weeks off your favourite sports or hobby.

The high recurrence of ankle sprains is likely due to the fact that you didn’t actually recover the full function and capability of the ankle. Meaning, the ankle did not regain its full movement, strength or control.  For example research studies has shown that if you did not recover a particular movement of the ankle (called dorsiflexion) you are at a higher risk of another sprain. Logically, if your ankle still feel unstable, you will run the risk of injury.

Do these quick self-tests to see if you have fully recovered and your readiness to return full-on from your ankle sprains.  If in doubt, do consult our physiotherapists to learn more about how to perform the test properly. Our sprained ankle treatment sessions help to not only restore your ankle’s range of motion, but also ensure that it is ready for your sports.

1. Full active range of motion in all directions

The ankle has 4 degrees of movements – dorsiflexion, plantarflexion, inversion, eversion (refer to the picture below for the movements and expected range). The numbers provided for the expected full range of motion is arbitrary. What is usually more accurate is the comparison with your non-injured foot.  You should not feel any pain in any of these movements especially towards the end point of the movement.

ankle flexibility test

Do this ankle range test for ankle dorsiflexion movement.

Try this simple clinical test to see if your ankle has fully healed

(1) Position your injured foot on a stool and inch your knee forward towards the wall as shown. Your heel must remain in contact with the stool.

(2) Measure the number of fingers from your big toe to wall. You may be limited by pain or stiffness.

(3) Compare this distance to your uninjured side.

If you have pain or if the distance is lacking on the injured side. You have not fully recovered from your initial injury.

2.     Single leg balance: stand only your injured foot and hold steady for 30seconds with your eyes closed

Balance is important as part of our daily function and it is contributed by our visual and joint proprioception (joint position sense). Every step we take tests our dynamic balance. While balancing on one leg with our eyes open should be a piece of cake, the real test of our proprioception happens when the task is performed eyes closed and sustained for 30s with minimal sway. Less than 30 seconds hold means your ankle needs plenty of balancing training.

3.     Single leg heel raises x 40 repetitions

This test the strength of your ankle. The most basic movement of our ankle is to perform heel raise kind of movements. So here are the steps to test your strength:

You may place your hands on a wall to minimise the effect of balance on this test.

Step 1: Perform the task by lift both heels off the floor to check for your maximum lift Your knees should be straight and the shin bone should be in line with the second toe.

Step 2: Repeat the task while standing on one leg. You should be able to achieve the same lift as per when done with both legs) and lowering with control. Repeat this task 40 times.

If you have a lot of difficulty doing 40 repetitions, you need some serious training!

4.     Single leg hop (how high and how far)

lady testing her sprained ankle with single leg jumps

Perform a single leg hop aiming to achieve the greatest height with the non-injured leg then repeat the task with the injured ankle. You should be able to hop as high as the other side around the same area without experiencing any pain with both pushing off and landing. You should also be able to performing 5 maximal hops without pain and delay between.

Next, balance on one leg and hop forward as far as you can. You should be able to maintain your balance for 1 second without swaying left and right or flailing your arms. Compare the distance between sides, they should be within 95% of each other. Otherwise, there’s just a little more work to be done before you return to the sports scene full on.

5.     Pain free running

lady running pain free after recovering from sprained ankle

Great! Now that you can do all of the above and achieve 95% symmetry with your single leg hop for distance test, time to make things even more dynamic and functional! Start off by jogging then, attempt sprinting. Any pain in the ankle will cause the body to compensate for it and this can risk a re-injury or another injury to another area of the body.

If you score 5 out of 5 for the above tests, you are ready to conquer the world. If not, be kind do your ankle and consult our Singapore Physio clinic to learn more about specific training you need to do to ace the tests!

Dr Sharon Wang

Principal Physiotherapist

Dr Sharon Wang, writes from her heart and her personality shines through during her physiotherapy session with her patients. This exercise enthusiast loves a good workout, and you can catch her doing her Yoga to dance routine any day.
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