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

Jarvik JG, Meier EN, James KT, Gold LS, Tan KW, Kessler LG, Suri P, Kallmes DF, Cherkin DC, Deyo RA, Sherman KJ, Halabi SS, Comstock BA, Luetmer PH, Avins AL, Rundell SD, Griffith B, Friedly JL, Lavallee DC, Stephens KA, Turner JA, Bresnahan BW, Heagerty PJ. The effect of including benchmark prevalence data of common imaging findings in spine image reports on health care utilization among adults undergoing spine imaging: a stepped-wedge randomized clinical trial. JAMA Netw Open. 2020 Sep 1;3(9):e2015713. doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2020.15713. PubMed

Roseen EJ, Gerloven H, Felson DT, Delitto A, Sherman KJ, Saper RB. Which chronic low back pain patients respond favorably to yoga, physical therapy, and a self-care book? responder analyses from a randomized controlled trial. Pain Med. 2020 Jul 14. pii: pnaa153. doi: 10.1093/pm/pnaa153. [Epub ahead of print]. PubMed

Foster NE, Vertosick EA, Lewith G, Linde K, MacPherson H, Sherman KJ, Witt CM, Vickers AJ. Identifying patients with chronic pain who respond to acupuncture: results from an individual patient data meta-analysis. Acupunct Med. 2020 Jun 22:964528420920303. doi: 10.1177/0964528420920303 [Epub ahead of print] PubMed

Berlowitz J, Hall DL, Joyce C, Fredman L, Sherman KJ, Saper RB, Roseen EJ. Changes in perceived stress after yoga, physical therapy, and education interventions for chronic low back pain: a secondary analysis of a randomized controlled trial. Pain Med. 2020 Jun 4:pnaa150. doi: 10.1093/pm/pnaa150. [Epub ahead of print]. PubMed

Lee TL, Sherman KJ, Hawkes RJ, Phelan EA, Turner JA. The benefits of T'ai Chi for older adults with chronic back pain: a qualitative study. J Altern Complement Med. 2020 May 5. doi: 10.1089/acm.2019.0455. [Epub ahead of print]. PubMed

Sherman KJ. The trials and tribulations of selecting comparison groups in randomized trials of nonpharmacological complementary and integrative health interventions. J Altern Complement Med. 2020 Mar 11. doi: 10.1089/acm.2019.0460. [Epub ahead of print]. PubMed

Sherman KJ, Wellman RD, Hawkes RJ, Phelan EA, Lee T, Turner JA. T'ai Chi for chronic low back pain in older adults: a feasibility trial. J Altern Complement Med. 2020 Feb 3. doi: 10.1089/acm.2019.0438. [Epub ahead of print]. PubMed

Innes KE, Selfe TK, Montgomery C, Hollingshead N, Huysmans Z, Srinivasan R, Wen S, Hausmann MJ, Sherman K, Klatt M. Effects of a 12-week yoga versus a 12-week educational film intervention on symptoms of restless legs syndrome and related outcomes: an exploratory randomized controlled trial. J Clin Sleep Med. 2020 Jan 15;16(1):107-119. doi: 10.5664/jcsm.8134. PubMed

Roseen EJ, Gerlovin H, Femia A, Cho J, Bertisch S, Redline S, Sherman KJ, Saper R. Yoga, physical therapy, and back pain education for sleep quality in low-income racially diverse adults with chronic low back pain: a secondary analysis of a randomized controlled trial. J Gen Intern Med. 2019 Oct 30. pii: 10.1007/s11606-019-05329-4. doi: 10.1007/s11606-019-05329-4. [Epub ahead of print]. PubMed

Witt CM, Vertosick EA, Foster NE, Lewith G, Linde K, MacPherson H, Sherman KJ, Vickers AJ, Acupuncture Trialists’ Collaboration. The effect of patient characteristics on acupuncture treatment outcomes: an individual patient data meta-analysis of 20,827 chronic pain patients in randomized controlled trials. Clin J Pain. 2019 May;35(5):428-434. doi: 10.1097/AJP.0000000000000691. 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