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Today It Hurts Tomorrow It Works

You can expect your physical therapist with an Orthopedic Clinical Specialist certification to have advanced expertise and knowledge in the latest treatment techniques, evidence based practice, and outcomes when working with you and addressing your orthopedic condition.

Therapy: Orthopaedic Clinical Specialist


An Orthopedic Clinical Specialist (OCS) is one of the 10 specialty certifications that are recognized by the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA). An Physical Therapist with the OCS credential is qualified to treat any orthopedic condition ranging from the spine to the extremities, in both surgical and non-surgical contexts.


refers to the prevention of disability and the physical rehabilitation of persons with disability resulting from dysfunction of the musculoskeletal system and its related neurovascular components. The orthopedic clinical specialist uses advanced techniques and methods to assist the patient toward optimal function through corrective, adaptive, and prophylactic management of the neuromusculoskeletal system.

In 1981 the APTA House of Delegates approved board certification in the area of orthopedics. The first orthopedics specialist certification examination was administered in 1989. As of June 2020, ABPT has certified 17,318 orthopedics specialists nationwide.



A Physical Therapist who is recognized as an Orthopedic Clinical Specialist (OCS) is one who has earned an advanced certification in the prevention and treatment of the muscles, bones, and joints. This certificate formally recognizes physical therapists with expert knowledge and working experience in the area of orthopedics. 


Although a physical therapist has already completed extensive training and education, there are still two more steps if wanting to become an Orthopedic Clinical Specialist:

Complete 2,000 hours of direct patient care in orthopedics – A Physical Therapist can complete this by beginning an orthopedic residency (planned learning experience surrounding a given specialty) or begin directly working with orthopedic patients firsthand.

Pass the OCS Physical Therapy Exam – Once the required orthopedic hours have been met, the physical therapist must sit and pass a rigorous exam showing they have expertise in diagnosing, treating, and preventing orthopedic conditions.

OCS certification coursework and residency provides the clinician with a more in-depth understanding of the management of orthopedic conditions. The focus of the OCS framework is on utilizing the best current evidence to achieve better patient outcomes through quicker and more thorough clinical reasoning and more specific diagnosis and treatment.

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What is the difference between a regular physical therapist and an orthopedic clinical specialist

Orthopedic clinical specialists are physical therapists, but they have specialized in orthopedics. Earning the OCS credential requires advanced skills, training, and experience. Orthopedic clinical specialists are recognized in the industry for their advanced clinical proficiency in the field of orthopedic physical therapy.

How will I know which orthopedic physical therapist to pick for my sports injury

Contact our office. We have a team of therapists, each with their own strengths and areas of specialty including sports medicine. We will be happy to match you with the best physical therapist for your specific case.

Do I need a referral if I request treatment from an orthopedic clinical specialist

This is largely up to your health insurance plan as many health plans do require pre-approval before care begins. If you haven’t been referred to Optim Physical Therapy and Sports Medicine by your primary care doctor or orthopedic surgeon, call our office and we’ll be happy to help you determine the next step.

Will working with an orthopedic physical therapist relieve or reduce my pain

It really depends on why you are here. For example, your issue has to fall under a physical therapist’s scope of practice, and the injury or problem needs to fall within the therapist’s area of expertise. OCS therapists are specialists in orthopedic conditions involved in the musculoskeletal system.

How long does physical therapy treatment last for a total joint replacement

This varies with every patient. We rarely give a timeline because a lot of factors play into the rehab process. If we had to give a ballpark for an exceptional patient with no issues, then 3-4 months could be expected. However, that is rarely the case. Hips are easier than knees, but both take time to rebuild strength and address the other issues that led to the joint replacement in the first place.



Orthopedic Clinical Specialists are experts in evaluating and treating musculoskeletal conditions, a distinction that is shared by less than 5% of all physical therapists in the United States. As of 2022, there were 512 OCS therapists in Georgia. As of this year (2022) Optim Therapy has 6 OCS therapists. 

To schedule an appointment with an occupational or physical therapist at Optim Orthopedics, contact us at 912.644.5300  (8:00 a.m. -5:00 p.m.).


Therapy: Physical Therapy
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