Did you know your Physical Therapist can specialize in Orthopedics?

Did you know your Physical Therapist can specialize in Orthopedics?

Being a physical therapist has been a wonderfully rewarding career. I have been practicing for 10 years (11 this November). I love the involvement in healthcare and helping people achieve their goals and return to their activities of daily living. Despite practicing physical therapy for 10 years, I still don’t consider myself an experts in all avenues. Given my career path, I would say one of my strengths is orthopedics. But did you know your physical therapist can specialize in orthopedics?

What does that even mean?

Orthopedics is a branch of medicine dealing with the correction of deformities of bones or muscles. The American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) is the official member organization of the PT profession in the United States. The APTA has outlined a number of qualifications and a board examination that can result in a certification if passed. There are currently 8 certified specialties, but today I am only focusing on the OCS. If you see a physical therapist (ex. John Doe, PT, DPT, OCS) that means he has a license in physical therapy (PT), he completed his doctorate in physical therapy (DPT), and he is an Orthopedic Certified Specialist (OCS).


Obtaining your OCS (or any specialty certification for that matter) is a relatively difficulty and grueling process. It requires an application that must be approved showing you have had 1500 hours in your field and area of specialization and then a lengthy board exam to test your knowledge on the subject. If I was a patient (and I have been) and I had an orthopedic problem which required physical therapy, I would likely search for experts in my area that had an OCS. It doesn’t necessarily mean they will be the best therapist for you. You always have to try to find your best fit. However, it does show that they at least took some initiative and went the extra mile to learn more to become a better therapist.

Having practiced for 10 years, I think it may be time that I start looking into a specialty or two that interest me.

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