Daniel C. Cherkin, PhD

Senior Investigator


Recent publications

Curriculum vitae (CV)

Back in Action (online publication)



Research interests and experience

  • Alternative approaches to healing: healing in primary care; back pain and other musculoskeletal pain conditions; acupuncture; chiropractic care; massage; mindfulness meditation; tai chi; yoga; naturopathic medicine; integrative medicine
  • Chronic illness management: care for common chronic physical symptoms which lack specific diagnoses and/or effective treatments
  • Patient/provider interaction: effect of the therapeutic relationship and other contextual effects on patient outcomes
  • Health services & economics: role of complementary alternative medicine in improving the effectiveness and efficiency of health care services

Dan Cherkin’s research is driven by the desire to find new ways to make medical care more healing. With chronic illness on the rise, he aims to show how primary care can evolve to more effectively deal with health problems that don't respond well to conventional treatments.

Dr. Cherkin’s approach represents a transformation of the way we think about health care delivery and centers around the question, "What paths to healing are absent from the typical primary care encounter?" He is dedicated to identifying ways to more effectively engage patients in healing activities through improved interactions with their physicians: ones which identify patients’ underlying needs and lead to treatment options that are most likely to meet these needs.   He is especially interested in improving treatment for chronic conditions and is best known for his research on alternative therapies for back pain. He often collaborates with Group Health Research Institute (GHRI) investigator, Karen Sherman, PhD, to study therapies such as yoga, massage, and acupuncture. 

Dr. Cherkin is also committed to finding ways to optimize the  healing environment in primary care. An enhanced approach can only work when primary care providers’ own needs are supported by their work environment. To this end, he led a study aimed at bolstering awareness, communication, and team building among primary care staff as a way to foster mindful, patient-centered care. 

Dr. Cherkin provided nearly a decade of valuable service to GHRI as associate director for research from
1999–2008, with two years as acting director. He belongs to several professional organizations, including the International Society for Complementary Medicine Research, and was program chair for the 2009 North American Conference on Complementary and Integrative Medicine.

Appointed December 2010 by Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, Dr. Cherkin serves on the 2011–2014 National Advisory Council for the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) within National Institutes of Health. He was appointed to the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI)’s Advisory Panel for Improving Healthcare Systems Advisory Panel in 2013.

Dr. Cherkin has maintained two faculty appointments at the University of Washington since the 1980s and is now affiliate professor in both family medicine and health services.


Recent publications

Cherkin DC, Sherman KJ, Balderson BH, Turner JA, Cook AJ, Stoelb B, Herman PM, Deyo RA, Hawkes RJ. Comparison of complementary and alternative medicine with conventional mind-body therapies for chronic back pain: protocol for the Mind-body Approaches to Pain (MAP) randomized controlled trial. Trials. 2014 Jun 7;15(1):211. [Epub ahead of print]. PubMed

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.

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.

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.

Sherman KJ, Cook AJ, Wellman RD, Hawkes RJ, Kahn JR, Deyo RA, Cherkin DC. Five-week outcomes from a dosing trial of therapeutic massage for chronic neck pain. Ann Fam Med. 2014 Mar-Apr;12(2):112-20. doi: 10.1370/afm.1602. PubMed

Witt CM, Aickin M, Cherkin D, Che CT, Elder C, Flower A, Hammerschlag R, Liu JP, Lao L, Phurrough S, Ritenbaugh C, Rubin LH, Schnyer R, Wayne PM, Withers SR, Zhao-Xiang B, Young J, Berman BM. Effectiveness guidance document (EGD) for Chinese medicine trials: a consensus document. Trials. 2014 May 13;15(1):169. doi: 10.1186/1745-6215-15-169. PubMed

Sherman KJ, Eaves ER, Ritenbaugh C, Hsu C, Cherkin DC, Turner JA. Cognitive interviews guide design of a new CAM patient expectations questionnaire. BMC Complement Altern Med. 2014 Jan 25;14(1):39. doi: 10.1186/1472-6882-14-39. PubMed

Franco MR, Ferreira ML, Ferreira PH, Maher CG, Pinto RZ, Cherkin DC. Methodological limitations prevent definitive conclusions on the effects of patients' preferences in randomized clinical trials evaluating musculoskeletal conditions. J Clin Epidemiol. 2013 Jun;66(6):586-98. doi: 10.1016/j.jclinepi.2012.12.012. Epub 2013 Mar 16. PubMed

Sherman KJ, Wellman RD, Cook AJ, Cherkin DC, Ceballos RM. Mediators of yoga and stretching for chronic low back pain. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2013;2013:130818. doi: 10.1155/2013/130818. Epub 2013 Apr 17. PubMed

Lind BK, Gerkovich MM, Cherkin DC, Deyo RA, Sherman KJ, Lafferty WE. Effect of risk adjustment method on comparisons of health care utilization between complementary and alternative medicine users and nonusers. J Altern Complement Med. 2013 Mar;19(3):250-6. doi: 10.1089/acm.2011.0707. Epub 2012 Oct 4. PubMed

To view more publications, please see Dr. Cherkin’s CV.