Chronic Pain Patient Frequently Asked Questions

What should I do if I am in severe pain and believe I am experiencing a life-threatening medical crisis?

Call 911 or go to the nearest emergency room immediately.

What should I do if I have chronic pain and don't know what is causing it?

Contact your primary health care provider and set up an appointment. Your primary care provider will talk with you about your symptoms, perform a physical examination, and try to determine the reason for your pain. You may be sent to a specialist if your health care provider is unable to determine the cause of your pain or adequately manage your pain.

What should I do if I don't have a primary care provider?

If you don't have a primary health care provider, contact your health insurance company. Instructions for Medicare and Apple Health clients are below.

Commercial Insurance or Medicare Apple Health Managed Care Plan* through Apple Health
Call the number on the back of your insurance card for assistance. Visit Apple Health to find a provider or call 1-800-562-3022. Call the number on the back of your insurance card for assistance. *Amerigroup, Community Health Plan of Washington, Coordinated Care of Washington, Molina, United Healthcare Community Plan

What should I do if I don't have health insurance?

If you don't have health care insurance, find out how to get it by calling 1-855-923-4633 or visiting

What should I do before the first appointment with my new health care provider?

Get copies of your medical records that show previous medical diagnoses, treatment history, and history of pain. Keep these records in a file at home along with a list of your providers, tests performed, diagnoses, treatments, known drug allergies, and medications. Make a list of what you have tried, and what helped and what did not.

Be prepared for your medical appointment. Write down questions for your medical provider before the appointment to make sure the most important things get addressed. Consider bringing a friend or family member with you to the visit to help listen and ask questions.

How do I get my previous medical records?

If you were previously a patient of a different provider, contact their office to find out how to get your records. If you get no response, contact your insurance company for help.

What should I do if I do not have transportation to my appointment?

If you have Medicaid insurance, you can find transportation to a medical appointment. If you do not have Medicaid, call your health insurance company to see if you have any transportation benefits.

What types of treatments are available for chronic pain?

Chronic pain can be caused by many different conditions. There are many types of over-the-counter and prescription medications that may be recommended alone or in combination. There are also many non-medication treatments that can be effective for various causes of pain. There are many ‘tools in the toolbox' and you and your provider(s) need to identify what is most effective for you.

Are there rules or guidelines in Washington that prohibit health care providers from prescribing opioids for chronic pain?

No, there are no federal or state rules that prohibit health care providers from prescribing opioids for chronic pain. However, for many conditions, we do not know if long-term opioid therapy improves a person's pain, function or quality of life. Like any medicine, opioid therapy has certain risks, and are not right for everyone.

Are there limits to the doses of opioids that can be prescribed in Washington?

State Opioid Prescribing Rules do not set a limit on the dosage of opioids that can be prescribed in Washington. However, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend health care providers prescribe the lowest effective dose, use caution when prescribing opioids at any dosage, and avoid increasing patients with chronic pain to dosage ≥90 morphine milligram equivalents (MME) per day (because of increased incidence of side effects) or carefully justify a decision to increase dosage to ≥90 MME per day. Side effects can and do occur with much lower doses of opioids however and should be communicated to your health care provider.

Where can I find more information about the Opioid Prescribing Rules in Washington?

Additional information about the Opioid Prescribing Rules in Washington is available at:

If my provider needs more information on the Opioid Prescribing Rules in Washington, where can he or she find it?

Information for health care providers on the Opioid Prescribing Rules is available at:

Health care providers with specific questions about the Opioid Prescribing Rules are encouraged to call the Board or Commission that regulates their profession. Contact information is available at:

The health care provider who was prescribing me opioids for my chronic pain condition is no longer practicing. What should I do?

First, get your medical records from your previous provider if you don't already have them. It may be easier to get care from a new health care provider if you have your medical records.

If you need a new provider, contact your health insurance company to find one near you. If you need a new specialist, including a new pain specialist, ask your primary care provider for a referral or call your health insurance company.

Start looking for a new provider as soon as you learn that your provider is no longer practicing or is planning to stop practicing, as it may take time to get a new patient appointment.

What do I do if my pain medication prescription is running low and my provider is no longer in practice?

If you stop your opioid pain medications suddenly, you may get withdrawal symptoms. Withdrawal can be difficult, but it's not likely to cause harm to your body. Symptoms can include severe anxiety, restlessness, nausea, diarrhea, muscle pain, or insomnia.

If you've been taking a benzodiazepine such as Xanax, Valium, or Ativan for a long time and stop suddenly, you may have more severe, even life-threatening, problems.

If your pain or withdrawal symptoms become severe, go to the emergency room of your local hospital or an urgent care clinic.

I have been struggling with chronic pain and am feeling hopeless and distraught. What should I do?

Each county in Washington has a crisis clinic. Find a crisis clinic near you. If you're in King County you may call the Crisis Connections line at 1-866-789-1511.

You may also call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

I have chronic pain and have been misusing my prescription opioids. Where can I get evaluated and treated?

If you think you may need substance use treatment services, talk with your primary healthcare provider or contact the Washington Recovery Helpline at 1-866-789-1511.

For information and resources in your area, contact your local public health department.

What can I do if I am unhappy with the care I received from a health care provider or am not happy with my insurer?

Talk to your provider about why you are unhappy with your care. If you want to file a complaint with the health care provider's Board or Commission, you can learn about the process at:

Your insurance must provide you access to pain management care. If you are having a problem getting services, contact the Office of the Insurance Commissioner at 1-800-562-6900.