Karen J. Sherman, PhD, MPH

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“My research looks for effective holistic therapies for back pain such as yoga and acupuncture. I want to help people with pain lead more active lives.”

Karen J. Sherman, PhD, MPH

Senior Investigator, Kaiser Permanente Washington Health Research Institute

Biography

Karen J. Sherman, PhD, MPH, is an epidemiologist and clinical trialist. Her research interests include:

  • reducing the impact of chronic pain, especially spine pain;
  • evaluating complementary and integrative health (CIH) therapies;
  • building the evidence base for contextual factors related to care;
  • understanding and taking advantage of the relationship of spirituality and health; and
  • improving geriatric care.

She has led or participated in groundbreaking studies of various non-pharmacological therapies for chronic low back pain, including acupuncture, massage, meditation, and yoga.

Dr. Sherman has collaborated with investigators at Kaiser Permanente Washington Health Research Institute (KPWHRI) and elsewhere across a range of disciplines, including clinical trials of CIH therapies for cancer, mood disorders, and menopause. Her work on building the evidence base for contextual factors related to care tries to find ways to bring greater healing into the primary care encounter. Dr. Sherman hopes her work will encourage more focus on the intricate connections between mind and body—and on helping patients seize the power of this connection to pursue better health and healing at all phases of life, including older age. Her work is rigorous, designed to answer practical questions, and intended to have impacts on the whole person.

Dr. Sherman is a senior scientific investigator at KPWHRI and an affiliate professor of epidemiology at the University of Washington (UW) School of Public Health. Her doctorate is in behavioral biology from Cornell University, and her MPH is in epidemiology from the UW. She has served as a reviewer for dozens of medical journals and granting institutions, and has sat on editorial boards for numerous CIH journals.

Research interests and experience

  • Patient/Provider Interaction

    Communication; patient expectations; patient  education

 

Recent publications

Saper RB, Lemaster C, Delitto A, Sherman KJ, Herman PM, Sadikova E, Stevans J, Keosaian JE, Cerrada CJ, Fernia AL, Roseen EJ, Gardiner P, Gergen-Barnett K, Faulkner C, Weinberg J. Yoga, physical therapy, or education for chronic low back pain: a randomized noninferiority trial. Ann Intern Med. 2017 Jun 20. doi: 10.7326/M16-2579. [Epub ahead of print]. PubMed

MacPherson H, Vertosick EA, Foster NE, Lewith G, Linde K, Sherman KJ, Witt CM, Vickers AJ. The persistence of the effects of acupuncture after a course of treatment: a meta-analysis of patients with chronic pain. Pain. 2017 May;158(5):784-793. doi: 10.1097/j.pain.0000000000000747. PubMed

Cherkin DC, Anderson ML, Sherman KJ, Balderson BH, Cook AJ, Hansen KE, Turner JA. Two-year follow-up of a randomized clinical trial of mindfulness-based stress reduction vs cognitive behavioral therapy or usual care for chronic low back pain. JAMA. 2017;317(6):642-644. doi: 10.1001/jama.2016.17814. PubMed

Turner JA, Anderson ML, Balderson BH, Cook AJ, Sherman KJ, Cherkin DC. Mindfulness-based stress reduction and cognitive-behavioral therapy for chronic low back pain: similar effects on mindfulness, catastrophizing, self-efficacy, and acceptance in a randomized controlled trial. Pain. 2016 Nov;157(11):2434-2444.doi:10.1097/j.pain.0000000000000635. PubMed

Jones SM, Lange J, Turner J, Cherkin D, Ritenbaugh C, Hsu C, Berthoud H, Sherman K. Development and validation of the EXPECT questionnaire: assessing patient expectations of outcomes of complementary and alternative medicine treatments for chronic pain. J Altern Complement Med. 2016 Nov;22(11):936-946. Epub 2016 Sep 30. PubMed

Rundell SD, Sherman KJ, Heagerty PJ, Mock CN, Dettori NJ, Comstock BA, Avins AL, Nedeljkovic SS, Nerenz DR, Jarvik JG. Predictors of persistent disability and back pain in older adults with a new episode of care for back pain. Pain Med. 2017 Jun 1;18(6):1049-1062. doi: 10.1093/pm/pnw236. PubMed

Cherkin DC, Sherman KJ, Turner JA. Mindfulness-based stress reduction vs cognitive behavioral therapy for chronic low back pain-reply. JAMA. 2016 Aug 9;316(6):663-4. doi: 10.1001/jama.2016.7951. No abstract available. PubMed

Cherkin DC, Sherman KJ, Balderson BH, Cook AJ, Anderson ML, Hawkes RJ, Hansen KE, Turner JA. Effect of mindfulness-based stress reduction vs cognitive behavioral therapy or usual care on back pain and functional limitations in adults with chronic low back pain: a randomized clinical trial. JAMA. 2016 Mar 22-29;315(12):1240-9. doi: 10.1001/jama.2016.2323. PubMed

Keosaian JE, Lemaster CM, Dresner D, Godersky ME, Paris R, Sherman KJ, Saper RB. "We're all in this together": A qualitative study of predominantly low income minority participants in a yoga trial for chronic low back pain. Complement Ther Med. 2016 Feb;24:34-9. doi: 10.1016/j.ctim.2015.11.007. Epub 2015 Dec 2. PubMed

Saper RB, Lemaster CM, Elwy AR, Paris R, Herman PM, Plumb DN, Sherman KJ, Groessl EJ, Lynch S, Wang S, Weinberg J. Yoga versus education for Veterans with chronic low back pain: study protocol for a randomized controlled trial. Trials. 2016 Apr 29;17(1):224. doi: 10.1186/s13063-016-1321-5. PubMed

 

news release

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NIH awards KPWHRI 3 HEAL grants totaling over $15 million

Drs. DeBar, Bradley, and Sherman will lead projects in major new initiative to tackle national opioid crisis.

opioids

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Patient-doctor trust withstands opioid risk reduction

Risk-reduction initiative for chronic opioid therapy sustains patient-doctor trust, Dr. Karen Sherman finds.

Back Pain Research

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Integrative non-drug therapies treat back pain at reasonable cost

Kaiser Permanente researchers Drs. Daniel Cherkin, Karen Sherman, and Andrew Avins produced much of evidence in ICER report.

Read it in News and Events.

KPWHRI in the Media

How effective is acupuncture for chronic back pain?

Acupuncture for lower back pain: Really?

AARP, Feb. 6, 2020

healthy findings blog

Woman looks out window reflectively

Can being accepting and mindful help you stop smoking?

Tobacco remains a public health priority. Dr. Jennifer McClure discusses her new findings comparing ’acceptance and commitment therapy’ to standard care.