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Learn Medical Spanish – Discussing Headaches in Spanish

Learn Medical Spanish – Discussing Headaches in Spanish

This Free Medical Spanish lesson focuses on discussing headaches in Spanish: el dolor de cabeza.

In this lesson, we’re discussing stress headaches, migraines, cluster headaches, sinus pain, strokes, concussions and vision problems. For each cause of headaches, I’m sharing a basic description in Spanish and some simple tests and procedures. Here is the Headaches in Spanish video lesson I taught to the Facebook group:

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Dos lecciones para consultar / Two Lessons for Review and further discussion on pain and taking a medical history in Spanish:


How to Talk About Pain?

OLDCARTS in Spanish: History of the problem in Spanish


History of the Problem

Anatomía básica / Basic Anatomy

As we did in the other lessons, let’s start with a quick review of the basic anatomy in Spanish related to headaches.

Spanish English
El cerebro  Brain
El cráneo Cranium
El cuello (la nuca) Neck (the back of the neck)
El cuero cabelludo The scalp
El pelo, el cabello Hair
La boca  Mouth
La cabeza Head
La mandíbula Jaw
La nariz Nose
Los hombros Shoulders
Los músculos Muscles
Los oídos The ears
Los ojos  The eyes
Los senos frontales The frontal sinuses
Los senos paranasales The paranasal sinuses

Signos y síntomas / Signs and Symptoms

Here are some symptoms that might be causing the headaches to your patient and the pain level and they could be describing to you.

Spanish English
Ansiedad  Anxiety
Aura (Perturbaciones visuales) Aura (Visual disturbances)
Depresión Depression
Dolor: Pain:
– Ocasional – Occasional
– Frecuente  – Frequent
– Leve – Light
– Moderado – Moderate
– Intenso – Intense
– Con presión – With pressure
– En un lado o ambos lados – On one side or both sides
Estrés Stress
Falta de sueño – no dormir bien (lo suficiente) Lack of sleep – not sleeping well (enough)
Fiebre Fever
Gripe Flu / Common cold
Nausea Nausea
Presión alta High pressure
Problemas de memoria Memory problems
Resfriado  Cold
Sensibilidad a la luz Sensitivity to light
Sensibilidad a los ruidos Sensitivity to noise
Somnolencia Somnolencia
Vómito Vomit

Signos y síntomas de alerta / Warning Signs and Symptoms

Learning this vocabulary is crucial if you want to be able to make a good diagnosis for the headaches of your patient.

Spanish English
Caída de la cara Facial drop
Convulsiones Seizures
Debilidad  Weakness
Debilidad o rango de movimiento limitado en un lado Weakness or limited range of motion on one side
Desorientación Disorientation
Dificultad para hablar Difficulty speaking
Dolor de cabeza después de una lesión en la cabeza (o de una caída) Headache after a head injury (or a fall)
Dolor que empeora a pesar de tratamientos Pain that gets worse in spite of treatments
Dolor repentino y muy intenso Sudden and very intense pain
Dolor y rigidez en el cuello Pain and rigidity on the neck
Entumecimiento Numbness
Fiebre Fever
Problemas con el equilibrio Problems with balance
Problemas de coordinación Coordination problems
Sarpullido  Rash
Visión doble Double vision

Causas comunes / Common Causes

Here you can find listed seven common causes of headaches and their signs and symptoms in Spanish and English for practicing

Spanish English
1. Tensión / estrés:  Tensión en los músculos de los hombros, el cuello, la mandíbula y el cuello cabelludo pueden provocar dolor de cabeza. El estrés, saltar comidas, tomar demasiado licor, deshidratación y no dormir lo suficiente pueden contribuir a dolores de cabeza de  tensión. 1. Stress / stress: Tension in the muscles of the shoulders, neck, jaw and scalp can cause headaches. Stress, skipping meals, drinking too much alcohol, dehydration and not getting enough sleep can all contribute to tension headaches.
2. Migrañas: Las migrañas son un dolor intenso y punzante que se empeora gradualmente. Puede empezar en la frente, en un lado de la cabeza o alrededor de los ojos. Pueden ser acompañadas por cambios de visión, nauseas, vomito y sensibilidad a la luz y ruidos. 2. Migraines: Migraines are an intense, throbbing pain that gets worse gradually. It can start on the forehead, on the side of the head or around the eyes. They can be accompanied by changes in vision, nausea, vomiting and sensitivity to light and noise.
3. Dolor de cabeza “en racimos”: Un dolor de cabeza repentino y muy fuerte. Pueden atacar un lado de la cabeza o detrás de un ojo. Pueden despertarlo en la noche. Son parecidos a la migraña y pueden durar hasta 3 horas. 3. Cluster Headaches: A sudden and very strong headache. They can attack one side of the head or behind one eye. They can wake you up at night. They are similar to migraine and can last up to 3 hours.
4. Dolor de cabeza por sinusitis: La congestión que tiene con una infección e inflamación de los senos nasales y paranasales durante un resfriado pueden causar dolores de cabeza. 4. Sinusitis headache: The congestion you have with an infection and inflammation of the sinuses and paranasal during a cold can cause headaches.
5. Conmoción cerebral: Una lesión al cerebro causado por un golpe en la cabeza. Por el golpe, el cerebro mueve violentamente para adelante y atrás.  Este movimiento hace que el cerebro golpee el cráneo y puede provocar convulsiones, somnolencia, confusión, perdida de conocimiento. Es importante un tiempo de reposo y no volver a golpear la cabeza. 5. Concussion: A brain injury caused by a blow to the head. By the blow, the brain moves violently back and forth. This movement causes the brain to hit the skull and can cause seizures, drowsiness, confusion, loss of consciousness. It is important a time of rest and not hitting the head again.
6. Accidente cerebral:  Los accidentes cerebrales también son conocidos como derrame cerebral. Pueden ser causados por sangrados o falta de sangre en una parte de la cabeza. Resultan en confusión, debilidad, dificultad para hablar, somnolencia, entumecimiento, etc – es una emergencia. 6. Stroke: Strokes can be caused by bleeding or lack of blood in one part of the head. They result in confusion, weakness, difficulty speaking, drowsiness, numbness, etc. – it is an emergency.
7. Problemas de la visión:Si una persona tiene problemas de visión y no usa lenes o lentes de contacto, tiene que esforzarse para ver. Este esfuerzo extra puede provocar dolores de cabeza. 7. Vision problems: If a person has vision problems and does not wear lenses or contact lenses, he or she has to work hard to see. This extra effort can cause headaches.

Exámenes y procedimientos / Tests and Procedures

Finally, this a simple list of tests your patient might need to get or some procedures you could try to get your patient to relieve their headaches 🙂

Spanish English
Para diagnosticar: To diagnose:
Exámenes físicos  Physical exams
Tomografía computada (TAC) CT or CAT Scan
Resonancia magnética (RM) de cabeza MRI of the head
Angiografía Cerebral Cerebral Angiography
Electro encefalograma (EEG) Electroencephalogram (EEG)

Sugerencias para ayudar / Suggestions That Might Help

Do you want to give them some recommendations in Spanish to improve their live quality and avoid having headaches? Here are some examples you could use:

Spanish English
Cambios de estilo de vida: Lifestyle changes:
– Bajar el estrés – Lower stress
– Aprender maneras para relajarse  – Learn relaxation techniques
Tomar medicamentos de venta libre: Take over-the-counter medications:
– AINEs (Antinflamatorios no esteroides) – NSAIDs (Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs)
– Descongestionantes – Decongestants
Evitar los desencadenantes de dolores: Avoid the triggers for pain:
– Cafeína – Caffeine
– Alcohol – Alcohol
– Tabaco – Tobacco
– Mucho tiempo de “pantalla” – A lot of “screen” time
– Música fuerte – Loud music
– Falta de dormir  – Lack of sleep

PD: Two Updates for you! / ¡Dos noticias!

1. Immersion Programs: this is the best way for you to gain comfort, confidence, and fluidity in your expression in Spanish. If interested, check our Medical Immersion Programs.

2. Medical Spanish Verbs in Past Tenses: Beta testers are working hard on this course revision so it will be ready soon! 🙂

Now is your turn! ¡Ahora te toca a ti!

Study all this vocabulary with the flashcards below

Download the lesson notes and start creating your own questions and phrases using this new vocabulary in Spanish and share it on the comments below or in our Facebook group to receive feedback from other Medical Spanish learners 🙂

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Download Headaches in Spanish Notes TODAY

Keep up the good work speaking responsible Spanish to your patients! Check out our other books, classes & products to help you learn medical Spanish!

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Rory Foster
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Rory is passionate about the Spanish language, an expert instructor, and specifically energized by the practical use of language in industry & community settings.
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