How to Express the Pain in Japanese? 10+ Ways

Introduction

If you lived in Japan, how would you answer or tell a doctor how you feel when you are in pain? What would you say if they ask you to describe your feeling or pain in Japanese? If you are in Japan, you must be able to express “pain” in Japanese at some point. Therefore, in this article, I would like to show you how to properly express “pain” or “painful” or “sickness” in Japanese. 

In addition, if you want to learn the Japanese language from scratch, our media is the right place for you. Please find a lot of comprehensive as well as well-informed articles here. If you have a question, please leave your comment below. Hopefully, this article will be helpful to you. Talking about pain, there are specific words as well as onomatopoeia that work to describe the pain. Let’s learn together here.

1. How to describe “Pain” generally in Japanese

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At first, if you want to say that you are physically feeling “pain” in Japanese, the word itai (痛い、いたい) is the right word. Additionally, you can use this word in any condition because it is the general one. Whether when you are talking with a doctor or whenever you feel hurt and need to tell what you feel to your friend or colleague. The general word to say “pain” or ” it hurts” in Japanese is “itai”. Now, please look at the following list to know how this word works in Japanese as the following:

  • Itai (痛い、いたい): It is an i-adjective (いー形容詞) that means pain, pain or hurt.
  • Itami (痛み、いたみ): It is a noun form of Itai (i-adjective) that means pain or wound. 

For further understanding, please see the following example of the sentences. Also, please play the audio to hear the pronunciations.

An Example of “Itai”

(1) 彼女は脇腹が痛いと言っていました。
Kanojo wa wakibara ga itai to itte imashita.
She said that her flank (side of stomach) is hurt.

An Example of “Itami”

(2) 彼は脇腹に痛みを感じた。
Kare wa wakibara ni itami o kanjita.
He felt pain in his flank.

2. How to Describe Specific “Pain” in Japanese

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In this section, you will learn more about how to express “pain” in Japanese. Why do you need this? Because if you express your feelings as accurately as possible, you will receive the best treatment. Then, you can avoid miss understanding. As mentioned earlier, Japanese people commonly use onomatopoeia to express what they feel. For example, if you have a headache or toothache. In this way, your expression becomes much more precise and sounds like a native Japanese.

2.1 ガンガン (Gan – Gan or Gang – Gang): Pounding

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Japanese frequently use the phrase “ガンガン (Gan-Gan)” to describe headaches. Please note that this expression exclusively represents pain only related to headaches in the Japanese, not others. This expression means “pounding” and “splitting” pain in Japanese. If you caught a cold, you also have a headache, or if you drank too much alcohol, your head feels so bad. This word is perfect to explain these conditions. Please look at the example below to grasp more about ガンガンする (gan-gan suru):

(1) 寝不足のせいか、朝から頭がガンガンする。
Nebusoku no sei ka, asa kara atama ga gan-gan suru.
Maybe because of lack of sleep, my head gets pounded from the morning.
(2)コーヒー飲み過ぎたせいか、頭がガンガンと痛んでいる。
Kōhī nomi sugita sei ka, atama ga gan gan to itande iru.
My head feels so hurt, probably because I drank too much coffee.

2.2 ズキズキ (Zuki – Zuki): Throbbing

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When you visit your dentist in Japan, it is very important that you remember this phrase. Instead of using a very general word such as “Itai” for example, please try to remember this phrase instead. Yes, if you feel some kind of throbbing pain in your tooth, just use this phrase. This idiom stands for both severe and dull pain. Japanese commonly use the phrase “zuki-zuki” to express toothache. Let’s see the example below:

(1) アイスクリームを食べ過ぎせいか、歯がズキズキと痛む。
Aisukurīmu o tabe sugi sei ka, ha ga zukizuki to itamu.
My teeth are throbbing, probably because I eat too much ice cream.
(2) 料理する時に傷ついた指がズキズキと痛む。
Ryōri suru toki ni kizutsuita yubi ga zukizuki to itamu.
My injured finger hurts when I cook.

2.3 チクチク (Chiku – Chiku): Prickling or Tingling

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As you might hear this phrase for the first time, what would you imagine when the Japanese say “Chiku – Chiku”? Then, when you open the dictionary to look up the meaning, you can find a word such as “tingling”, “prickling” and “stinging”. There are 2 meanings of ”チクチク (Chiku – Chiku)”. They are “itchy” and “pain” feelings.

Let’s break down how this phrase works below. You may use it in the two conditions below:
(1) To express “itchy”: This happens when we wear clothes such as sweaters or when the tags on our new clothes hit our backs.
(2) To express “pain”: When we feel a kind of tingling in some part of our body, this phrase would be a good option as well.

In addition, you may also use this phrase to express the “pricking” and “stinging” sensation. Let’s see the example below:

(1) 虫に刺されて、チクチクするんです。
Mushi ni sasa rete, chikuchiku suru ndesu. 
I’ve just bitten by insects and it’s so itchy.
(2) 運動不足せいか、脇腹がチクチクと痛む。
Undō busoku sei ka, wakibara ga chikuchiku to itamu.
My flank hurts, probably because of a lack of exercise.

2.4 じんじん (Jin – Jin): Tingling Pain in Injury

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When you get injured and the affected area that feels hurts has constant pain as well as numbness at the same time, you can use this phrase, ジンジン (Jinjin). This kind of pain is usually caused by deep illness or major injury.

However, not only caused by such a major injury, you may feel numbness as well for the other condition. Let’s say when you sit too long and you feel numbness in your leg. In that case, you can use this phrase as well. Please look at the following example to get to know more:

(1) 公園で転んでできた傷がじんじんと痛む。
Kōen de koronde dekita kizu ga jin jin to itamu.
The wound I got from my fall in the park feels hurt.
(2) なんか手がしびれて、じんじんする。
Nanka te ga shibirete, jin jin suru.
Somehow my hands are numb and I feel it hurts.

2.5 キリキリ Kiri – Kiri): Stabbing

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Please remember that this phrase キリキリ (Kiri – Kiri) represents a sharp pain sensation in the stomach. Japanese frequently use this phrase for stomach pain. Usually, people say this phrase as キリキリ痛い (Kiri – Kiri Itai) which means the stabbing sensation of pain. When a woman gets her periods, they can use this as well to express the menstrual pain they feel.

As you have understood that the general phrase for stomach is “Itai” only. Nonetheless, “Itai” is only for dull or normal pain, very general. When you feel the pain is out of normal. The pain is like sharp, stabbing as well as very constant pain in your stomach, use this phrase. Then, you can express it to the doctor precisely. Thus, you can get the best treatment as well as appropriate medicine.

(1) 急に胃がキリキリと痛む。
Kyū ni i ga kirikiri to itamu.
Suddenly my stomach hurts.
(2) 緊張しすぎて、胃がキリキリと痛む。
Kinchō shi sugite, i ga kirikiri to itamu.
I’m so nervous that my stomach hurts.

2.6 ひりひり (Hiri – Hiri): Burning Pain

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ひりひり (Hiri – Hiri) is a kind of burning sensation of pain that is usually caused by a wound, burn, or sore. If you feel a burning sensation because of the sunburn, you can use this phrase. Usually, this phrase is commonly used for skin. Additionally, this phrase can also represent soreness as well as irritation. You may use this phrase not only for sunburn but also to express sore throat as well.

(1) 足の先が濡れて、ひりひりと痛んだ。
Ashi no saki ga nurete, hirihiri to itanda.
The tip of my foot got wet and it hurt.
(2) 日焼けしたところがヒリヒリと痛む。
Hiyake shita tokoro ga hirihiri to itamu.
The sunburned area feels hurt.

2.7 ムカムカ (Muka – Muka): Queasy Sensation

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When you eat kind of oily, too spicy, and greasy meals, soonest you may feel that your stomach hurts. This time I would introduce you to the suitable phrase for this condition. That is ムカムカ (muka-muka). Japanese often say it as ムカムカする (muka-muka suru)

Nevertheless, it is slightly different with kiri-kiri (stabbing pain) which would also be commonly used for stomachache. Compare with stabbing pain, the sensation of pain of this phrase, ムカムカ (muka-muka) is more queasy and followed by nausea.

(1) 食べ過ぎて胃がむかむかする。
Tabe sugite, i ga mukamuka suru.
I eat too much and my stomach feels queasy.
(2) 魚のにおいでむかむかする。
Sakana no nioi de mukamuka suru.
The smell of fish makes me sick (disgusts me).

2.8 くらくら (Kura – Kura): Dizzy

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Have you ever felt dizzy? In Japanese, there is special onomatopoeia for dizziness. Yes, that is くらくら (Kura-Kura). People often say “dizzy” as くらくらする (kura-kura suru) in Japanese. As you can imagine, the condition is when you can not stand due to your head feeling like spinning around. In the other case, you may use this phrase as well when you feel uncomfortable or you feel amazed when seeing something so fascinating. Please look at the following example for deeper understanding:

(1) コーヒーを飲むと、くらくらする人もいます。
Kōhī o nomu to, kurakura suru hito mo imasu.
Some people feel dizzy when they drink coffee.
(2) 明日までに終わらせないといけないレポートがあまりにもたくさんで、頭がくらくらする。
Ashita made ni owarasenaito ikenai repōto ga amarini mo takusan de, atama ga kurakura suru.
There are so many reports that I have to finish by tomorrow, and I’m dizzy.

2.9 パンパン (Pan – Pan): Stiff Sensation

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パンパン (pan-pan or pang-pang) is an onomatopoeia for stiffness condition. As you may feel some parts of your body are stiff and painful at the same time due to your physical activities. For all-day your grandmother need to take care of her grandchildren since they are visiting her home for example. Then she said that her shoulders are so stiff and painful. Then, this phrase is the right option to use.

On the other hand, this phrase also represents “full condition”. For example, you have eaten 3 boxes of large size Pizza then you feel that you cannot move anymore since your stomach is full. This phrase suits that condition. According to the dictionary, there are 3 meanings of this phrase as follows:
① The sound of clapping hands or hitting things.

② The sound of things exploding.
③ Things or usually stomachs that seem to be bulging out like they are about to burst.

Please look at the following example for a better understanding.

(1) 手をパンパンと叩く。
Te o panpan to tataku.
I clap my hands.
(2) どこかでパンパンと大きい音が聞こえた。
Doko ka de panpan to ōkī oto ga kikoeta.
I heard a loud noise somewhere.
(3) もうお腹がパンパンで、これ以上は食べられないんです。
Mō onaka ga panpan de, kore ijō wa taberarenai ndesu.
I am already full, I can’t eat more than this.

2.10 ゴロゴロ (Goro – Goro): Unpleasent Feeling in Eyes

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ゴロゴロ (goro-goro) is a phrase that usually used to describe the unpleasant feelings in the eyes. It is usually due to the intrusion of dust and dirt, contact lenses, and dry eyes. This usually would make you may feel uncomfortable, such as rough eyes or hitting something when you blink, or a foreign body feeling that you cannot remove inside your eyes. The symptoms may be exacerbated by inflammation and allergic reactions. You can use this phrase to describe your feelings to the eye doctors.

(1) 目がゴロゴロする、汚れが入ってるのかなあ。
Me ga goro-goro suru, yogore ga haitteru no ka nā.
I wonder if dirt is inside my eyes, they feel gritty.
(2) レンズを使うと、目がゴロゴロと感じる。
Renzu o tsukau to, me ga goro-goro to kanjiru.
When I use a lens, my eyes feel rugged.

2.11 しょぼしょぼ (Syobo – Syobo): Sore Sensation in Eyes

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Next is the other option of pain feeling in the eye. It is しょぼしょぼ (syobo-syobo) which means sore eyes caused by tiredness. In some cases, you may feel that your eyes are swelling. This pain usually happens to anyone who works on the computer for such a long time. Then, we need to visit ophthalmology to solve this pain. Usually, the doctor will give you moisturizers or certain medications as well as treatment to make your eyes feel better.

(1) 目がしょぼしょぼして、スマホの画面が見えにくくなる。
Me ga syobo syobo shite, sumaho no gamen ga mienikuku naru.
My eyes are tired, it becomes difficult to see the screen of my smartphone.
(2) 最近、目が疲れているみたい、しょぼしょぼしたりしない?
Saikin, me ga tsukarete iru mitai, syobo-syobo shitari shinai?
Your eyes seem to be tired lately, don’t you feel sore eyes?

2.12 ムズムズする (Muzu – Muzu): Tickle or Itchy Sensation in Nose or Eyes

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ムズムズ (muzu-muzu) is a phrase that describes tickle as well as an itchy sensation. Usually, this happens in the eyes or nose. In the case of eyes, this phrase usually represents slightly light symptoms of eyes, yet most commonly happen to anyone is an itchy eye or rubbed feeling. This is usually caused by bacterial infections and allergic symptoms such as “conjunctivitis” and “hay fever”. If the symptoms are continuous for several days such as eye fatigue, it means that we may have an eye disease. Here, we need to tell the doctor to get the best treatment.

Moreover, in the spring seasons, we may feel our nose is so tickling, due to the contact with pollen for example. This is an allergic symptom similar to the eye that I have explained previously. Using this phrase is the right one as well. Please look at the example to understand more.

(1) 昨日から鼻がムズムズするの、花粉症かなあ。
Kinō kara hana ga muzumuzusuru no, kabunshō ka nā.
I wonder if it’s hay fever that my nose gets stuffy from yesterday.
(2) なんだか目がむずむずする、とてもかゆい。
Nandaka, me ga muzumuzu suru, totemo kayui.
Somehow, my eyes are tickling, it is really itchy.

Conclusion

Last but not least, upon further review, we can grasp today’s article as the main points as the following:

  • The general word to say “pain” or ” it hurts” in Japanese is “痛い (itai)”.
  • There are certain onomatopoeia to describe the pain feelings in some part of body in Japanese.
  • Remembering the specific phrase will be very useful to make your Japanese more accurate.
  • Please make a note and scroll up the specific phrase above that suits your feelings.
  • Please remember the example of sentences or challenge yourself to make the other example

Thank you very much for reading all parts of this article. Please freely drop your comments below if you have further inquiries etc. Hope you enjoy Learn Japanese and Japanese Culture in our Media. See you again in the next articles.

ABOUTこの記事をかいた人

Hi, I’m Eka. I’m one of the awardees of the 2016 MEXT College to College Recommendation Scholarship. I completed the one-year JASSO-Tokyo Japanese course (2016-2017) and won second place in the Japanese speech competition held internally at JASSO at that time. After that, I continued my education at NIT. Akashi College and earned a Bachelor of Engineering degree after 2 years of study. I love teaching children English and Japanese, writing blogs, designing graphics, and creating digital content. I hope you enjoy the knowledge I share here based on the experience I gained in Japan for over 5 years. Thanks!