Complementary & Integrative Health

“Our studies have helped establish the evidence-base for many ‘complementary therapies’ that many Americans use to treat chronic pain and other conditions. This helps ensure that treatments are truly patient-centered.”

Karen J. Sherman, PhD, MPH
Senior Investigator, Kaiser Permanente Washington Health Research Institute

Research overview

Americans are increasingly using complementary and integrative medicine for pain and other health problems, according to national surveys. Kaiser Permanente Washington Health Research Institute (KPWHRI) has one of the nation's leading teams researching these approaches to healing. The team uses rigorous scientific methods to evaluate the effectiveness—and cost-effectiveness—of complementary and integrative therapies delivered as in real-world practice.

Many KPWHRI studies concern musculoskeletal conditions such as back pain, which accounts for a large portion of visits to alternative providers. National guidelines for treating back pain now include four complementary and integrative approaches: three of them—massage, yoga, and acupuncture—on the strength of Kaiser Permanente research.

"Our research has shown that massage, yoga, acupuncture, mindfulness-based stress reduction, and to a lesser extent spinal manipulation help relieve chronic low back pain," says KPWHRI Senior Investigator Dan Cherkin, PhD. "But the reasons why these treatments are helpful remain unclear."

The stress-reducing aspects of some treatments may be more important than the physical ones. Also, complementary and integrative practitioners often approach their patients with optimism, offer suggestions for ways they can achieve more balance in their lives, and coach them on becoming more involved in their own healing and self-care. “We’re very interested in self-care: things that people can do for themselves,” says Senior Investigator Karen Sherman, PhD, MPH.

"We are understanding better how the mind and body are intricately connected, with both important for healing to occur," Dr. Sherman says. "In primary care, we hope to harness the mind-body connection to enhance healing for various health problems that don't respond well to conventional treatments."

Drs. Sherman and Cherkin have worked with Clarissa Hsu, PhD, an assistant investigator at KPWHRI‘s Center for Community Health and Evaluation, on qualitative research for several projects. 

Recent publications on Complementary and Integrative Health

Ward L, Stebbings S, Athens J, Cherkin D, Baxter GD. Yoga for pain and sleep quality in rheumatoid arthritis: a pilot randomized controlled trial. J Altern Complement Med. 2014;20(5):A87. doi: 10.1089/acm.2014.5231.abstract.

Ward L, Stebbings S, Cherkin D, Baxter GD. Which database do I use? A review of database retrieval of yoga articles for musculoskeletal conditions. J Altern Complement Med. 2014;20(5):A135-6. doi: 10.1089/acm.2014.5363.abstract.

Eaves E, Ritenbaugh C, Hsu C, Sherman K. Changing hopes and expectations of CAM treatments for back pain: a longitudinal qualitative analysis. J Altern Complement Med. 2014;20(5):A141. doi: 10.1089/acm.2014.5377.abstract.

Sherman KJ, Cook A, Wellman R, Kahn J, Cherkin D. Influence of the amount and duration of therapeutic massage for chronic neck pain on 12 and 26 week outcomes of pain and function. J Altern Complement Med. 2014;20(5):A49-50. doi: 10.1089/acm.2014.5129.abstract.

Eaves ER, Ritenbaugh C, Nichter M, Hopkins AL, Sherman KJ. Modes of hoping: understanding hope and expectation in the context of a clinical trial of complementary and alternative medicine for chronic pain. Explore (NY). 2014;10(4):225-32. doi: 10.1016/j.explore.2014.04.004. Epub 2014 Apr 19. PubMed

Researchers in Complementary and Integrative Health

Daniel C. Cherkin, PhD

Senior Investigator (Emeritus)
206-287-2875
Dan.C.Cherkin@kp.org

Curriculum vitae (CV)

Karen J. Sherman, PhD

Senior Investigator
206-287-2426
Karen.J.Sherman@kp.org

Katherine M. Newton, PhD

Senior Investigator (Emeritus)
206-287-2973
Katherine.M.Newton@kp.org

Curriculum vitae (CV)

Andrea J. Cook, PhD

Senior Investigator
206-287-4257
Andrea.J.Cook@kp.org

Curriculum vitae (CV)

Clarissa Hsu, PhD

Assistant Investigator
206-287-4276
Clarissa.W.Hsu@kp.org

Curriculum vitae (CV)

Ben Balderson, PhD

Research Associate
206-287-2803
Benjamin.H.Balderson@kp.org

Curriculum vitae (CV)

Eric Johnson, MS

Biostatistician
206-287-2105
Eric.Johnson@kp.org

Curriculum vitae (CV)

Robert D. Wellman, MS

Biostatistician
206-287-2557
Robert.D.Wellman@kp.org

Curriculum vitae (CV)

Lorella Palazzo, PhD

Research Associate
206-287-2173
Lorella.G.Palazzo@kp.org

Curriculum vitae (CV)

Marlaine Gray, PhD

Assistant Investigator
206-287-2620
Marlaine.S.Figueroagray@kp.org

Curriculum vitae (CV)

Lynn DeBar, PhD

Senior Investigator
(206) 287-2942
Lynn.Debar@kp.org

Curriculum vitae (CV)
 

Affiliate researcher

Susan D. Reed, MD, MPH

Harborview Medical Center; University of Washington (UW) Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology