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

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

Cherkin D, Balderson B, Brewer G, Cook A, Estlin KT, Evers SC, Foster NE, Hill JC, Hawkes R, Hsu C, Jensen M, LaPorte AM, Levine MD, Piekara D, Rock P, Sherman K, Sowden G, Wellman R, Yeoman J. Evaluation of a risk-stratification strategy to improve primary care for low back pain: the MATCH cluster randomized trial protocol. BMC Musculoskelet Disord. 2016 Aug 24;17(1):361. doi: 10.1186/s12891-016-1219-0. PubMed

Cook AJ, Wellman RD, Cherkin DC, Kahn JR, Sherman KJ. Randomized clinical trial assessing if additional massage treatments for chronic neck pain improve 12 and 26 week outcomes. Spine J. 2015 Oct 1;15(10):2206-15. doi: 10.1016/j.spinee.2015.06.049. Epub 2015 Jun 19. PubMed

Rundell SD, Sherman KJ, Heagerty PJ, Mock CN, Jarvik JG. The clinical course of pain and function in older adults with a new primary care visit for back pain. J Am Geriatr Soc. 2015 Mar 6. doi: 10.1111/jgs.13241 [Epub ahead of print]. PubMed

Eaves ER, Sherman KJ, Ritenbaugh C, Hsu C, Nichter M, Turner JA, Cherkin DC. A qualitative study of changes in expectations over time among patients with chronic low back pain seeking four CAM therapies. BMC Complement Altern Med. 2015 Feb 5;15(1):12. [Epub ahead of print]. PubMed

 

Research

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HEAL responds to double crisis: Opioids and COVID-19

Health care is increasingly online—KPWHRI is studying telehealth options for opioid use disorder and chronic pain.

research

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Stopping the opioid epidemic: A KPWHRI priority

The latest on our research on chronic pain and opioids—and how the results influence health policy and clinical practice.

news release

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NIH awards over $15 million in HEAL grants to KPWHRI

Drs. DeBar, Bradley, and Sherman lead projects in initiative to tackle 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.

KPWHRI in the Media

How effective is acupuncture for chronic back pain?

Acupuncture for lower back pain: Really?

AARP, Feb. 6, 2020