Charles R. Elder, MD, MPH

Senior Investigator

Internal Medicine, Northwest Permanente

Areas of Focus


Meet Charles Elder

Charles Elder is one of only a few doctors trained in both conventional and complementary medicine. In addition to studying mind/body techniques, acupressure, and Ayurveda, he also practices some of these techniques himself—including a daily meditation practice that he has maintained for nearly 30 years.

Charles Elder, MD, MPH, combines his clinical practice expertise with an interest in applying complementary medicine to mainstream medical care. His research focuses on complementary and integrative medicine (CIM), particularly in the areas of pain management and ayurvedic medicine.

Dr. Elder was a co-investigator on the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health-sponsored Relief study, which evaluated the effectiveness of chiropractic care and acupuncture for patients with chronic musculoskeletal pain. He is currently site principal investigator for a trial funded by the National Institutes of Health that assesses the effectiveness of cognitive behavioral therapy for chronic pain delivered by either telephone or the internet. Previously published studies have included clinical trials comparing a self-acupressure technique to social support for weight loss maintenance, as well as a whole systems evaluation of ayurveda for newly diagnosed type 2 diabetics.  

A Northwest Permanente physician who is board certified in internal medicine, Dr. Elder joined the Permanente Medical Group in 1991. He maintains both a conventional medicine practice and a referral-based CIM clinic on the Kaiser Permanente Interstate campus. 

In addition to his research and practice, Dr. Elder is a clinical assistant professor of medicine at Oregon Health & Science University. In 2002, he was elected a fellow of the American College of Physicians, and in 2010 was a recipient of the Northwest Permanente Distinguished Physician award. He also serves as  associate editor for integrative medicine for The Permanente Journal. He received his medical degree from the Boston University School of Medicine and his training in internal medicine from the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor. 

Selected Current Studies

  • Tailored Non-Pharmacotherapy Services for Chronic Pain: Testing Scalable and Pragmatic Approaches (NIH)

Selected Publications

  • Elder C, DeBar LL, Ritenbaugh C, Vollmer WM, Deyo R, Dickerson J, Kindler LL. Acupuncture and chiropractic care: utilization and electronic medical record capture. Am J Manag Care 2015. July, 2015. 21;7: e414-421.
  • Elder C, Nidich S, Moriarty F, Nidich R. Effect of transcendental meditation on employee stress, depression, and burnout: A randomized controlled study. Perm J 2014 Winter; 18(1):19-23. PMCID: PMC3951026
  • Elder CR. Integrating naturopathy: Can we move forward? Perm J 2013 Fall; 17(4):80-83. PMCID: PMC3854814
  • Elder CR, Gullion CM, Debar LL, Funk KL, Lindberg NM, Ritenbaugh C, Meltesen G, Gallison C, Stevens VJ. Randomized trial of Tapas Acupressure Technique for weight loss maintenance. BMC Complement Altern Med 2012 Mar 15; 12:19. PMCID: PMC3375195
  • Elder CR, Gullion CM, Funk KL, DeBar LL, Lindberg NM, Stevens VJ. Impact of sleep, screen time, depression, and stress on weight change in the intensive weight loss phase of the LIFE study. Int J Obes (Lond) 2012 Jan; 36(1):86-92. [Epub 2011 Mar 29] PMCID: PMC3136584
  • DeBar LL, Elder C, Ritenbaugh C, Aickin M, Deyo R, Meenan R, Dickerson J, Webster JA, Yarborough BJ. Acupuncture and chiropractic care for chronic pain in an integrated health plan: A mixed methods study. BMC Complement Altern Med 2011 Nov 25; 11:118. PMCID: PMC3256110
  • Elder C, Ritenbaugh C, Mist S, Aickin M, Schneider J, Zwickey H, Elmer P. Randomized trial of two mind-body interventions for weight-loss maintenance. J Altern Complement Med 2007 Jan-Feb; 13(1):67-78.
  • Elder C, Aickin M, Bell IR, Fonnebo V, Lewith GT, Ritenbaugh C, Verhoef M. Methodological challenges in whole systems research. J Altern Complement Med 2006 Nov; 12(9):843-50.
  • Elder C, Aickin M, Bauer V, Cairns J, Vuckovic N. Randomized trial of a whole-system ayurvedic protocol for Type 2 Diabetes. Altern Ther Health Med 2006 Sep-Oct; 12(5):24-30.


Weighing the Alternatives: Complementary and Integrative Medicine Services at Kaiser Permanente Northwest

Kaiser Permanente Northwest covers a range of complementary services—and the Center for Health Research plays a key role in understanding how well they work, how cost-effective they are, and what patients and doctors are saying about them.

Aug 30, 2018


Involving Patients as Equal Partners in Research

Chronic pain affects more than 100 million Americans. That’s more than diabetes, cancer and heart disease combined. It’s the number one reason patients visit their primary care providers, sometimes with the expectation that those providers will have a quick cure or answer. But for most patients with chronic pain, that’s not the case. The pain can last several years or a lifetime, but as we learn in this video, patients who take an active role in their treatment can often return to normal activities and improve their quality of life. The study described in the video was funded by the non-profit Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute.

Press Release

Most Patients with Chronic Pain Use Alternative Therapies, But Many Don’t Tell Their Doctors

More than half of chronic pain patients in a managed care setting reported using chiropractic care or acupuncture or both, but many of these patients didn’t discuss this care with their primary care providers.

Jul 20 2015