How can we harness the mind-body connection to enhance healing? An expert in complementary and alternative medicine, Karen Sherman investigates this question with a practical yet sophisticated approach—using rigorous epidemiological methods to test alternative therapies delivered in a manner consistent with real-world practice.
Much of Dr. Sherman's research focuses on evaluating complementary and alternative treatments for musculoskeletal conditions. In 2005, she published groundbreaking findings showing that yoga is effective treatment for chronic back pain. The largest study of yoga for back pain at that time, it was among the first hatha yoga trials published in a major medical journal and has now been replicated at Group Health and in the United Kingdom. Dr. Sherman partners with Group Health Research Institute (GHRI) investigator Dan Cherkin, PhD, on many of her studies, including a randomized trial of acupuncture for back pain that made news in 2009. Also the largest U.S. study of its kind, it was designed to test both practical and theoretical questions in the treatment’s efficacy.
Dr. Sherman has collaborated with investigators at GHRI and elsewhere across a range of disciplines, including studies of alternative therapies for cancer, mood disorders, and menopause. A special interest is researching the role of non-pharmacologic complementary and alternative medicine in the modern health care system and in finding 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.
Dr. Sherman is a member of the International Society for Complementary Medicine Research and the Society for Acupuncture Research, having served on the latter's board of directors from 1998 to 2007. She serves as a reviewer for dozens of medical journals, is the section editor for clinical research at Biomed Central CAM, and sits on the editorial board for Evidence Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, International Journal of Yoga Therapy and Focus on Alternative and Complementary Therapies. Dr. Sherman is also an affiliate professor in epidemiology at the University of Washington's School of Public Health.
Utilization; role of complementary and alternative medicine in health care; acupuncture; massage; meditation; tai chi; yoga; fibromyalgia; menopause; back pain; neck pain; anxiety disorders
Chronic back pain; diabetes care; self-management
Alternative therapies for anxiety disorders
Alternative therapies for menopause
Communication; patient expectations; patient education
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
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
(JAMA Network, 2:26)
New York Times, March 22, 2016
Yoga vs. stretching: Which is better for low back pain?