Linda Hall: Pain in Spain

NO-ONE wants to think about being ill, but at some stage, it's usually necessary to see a doctor.

Credit: Subbotina Anna /

NO-ONE wants to think about being ill, but at some stage, it’s usually necessary to see a doctor.

Despite post-pandemic hiccups, few Brits badmouth Spain’s Seguridad Social health service.  But what they will come across, in specialist centres and hospitals are the notices warning that those with limited Spanish should bring an interpreter.

Nevertheless, some doctors like to practise their often excellent English, although a friend and I were both puzzled when her specialist appeared to tell her to work more when he actually wanted her to walk more.

Unless you have private healthcare, initial contact with the medical profession begins at a Centro de Salud where you will see un médico/una médica de cabecera.  Once inside their surgery or consulta, launch into the problem:

I don’t feel well… me encuentro bien or me encuentro mal

I have a cough…..tengo tos

I have a sore throat… duele la garganta or me pica la garganta

I have a headache/earache/backache/stomach ache … duele la cabeza/me duelen los oídos/me duele la espalda/me duele el estómago

My leg/foot/ankle/knee/thigh/hip hurts… duele la pierna/el pie/el tobillo/la rodilla/el muslo/la cadera

My arm/hand/wrist/elbow hurts… duele el brazo/la mano/la muñeca/el codo

I have a pain in my kidneys… duelen los riñones

I have palpitations…..tengo palpitaciones/taquicardia

I have piles/haemorroids…..tengo almorranas/hemorroides depending on whether you call a spade a spade

If you haven’t been specific, a doctor will probably ask:

What is the matter?…¿qué le pasa?

Where does it hurt?…..¿dónde le duele? or ¿dónde le molesta?

When did it start?…..¿cuándo empezó el problema?

Many diagnostic words – un virus, una infección vírica, una infección, bronquitis, appendicitis, hernia  – are sufficiently lookalike not to need translation.  For others – un esguince (sprain), pulmonía (pneumonia) – for instance, you will need to get the dictionary out before leaving with your receta or prescription which, as cooks might already know, is also a recipe.

Meanwhile, the tempting pena does not come in handy at the doctor’s, as this means a prison term, sadness or a pity – but not pain.

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Written by

Linda Hall

Originally from the UK, Linda is based in Valenca and is a reporter for The Euro Weekly News covering local news. Got a news story you want to share? Then get in touch at