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I understand that the word シクシク is 擬声語/giseigo/onomatopoeia equivalent to the English "boo-hoo/boo-hoo-hoo."

恐怖でシクシク泣く
: To whimper in fear

彼女はボーイフレンドに捨てられた時、あまりの惨めさにシクシクと泣いた。
: She wailed in misery when her boyfriend dumped her.

However, I also see it as a qualifier for pain, but I can't tell what kind of pain it describes. Is it a pain so "gripping" as to make one sob, or is it a "dull" pain (which implies something more to be inconvenienced or annoyed by)?

シクシクと痛みます
: It is a dull pain.

胃がシクシク痛む
: have a gripping pain in one's stomach

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シクシク implies continuing, moderate level of crying/pain. I don't know if their etymology is related but 雨がシトシト降る also means that a moderate (not too hard, but not soft either) level of rain continuously falls. Maybe this sound pattern is associated with moderate, continuing things in Japanese.

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  • It looks like it is possibly derived from 頻く頻く.
    – Darcinon
    Commented Nov 29, 2015 at 22:53
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I believe that シクシク describes a dull, gripping pain as in 締め付けられるような痛み.

I've heard it used most often in hospitals to describe pain that a patient may be having.

Since you are describing a feeling using onomatopoeia, its implied meaning might be a bit vague without sufficient context. It's akin to trying to describe your car problem to a mechanic by imitating the car when it experiences the problem. E.g. "When I go up the hill my car goes *Grunt* *Plunk* *Poot* *Che-Che-Che*"

鈍痛 might be more appropriate to refer to dull pain in general.

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