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Retrolisthesis is a joint dysfunction that occurs when a single vertebra slips backward. In some cases, the vertebra slips underneath a disc. This movement measures two millimeters or more but is not severe enough to qualify as a dislocation. Retrolisthesis most often happens in the neck and shoulder area or the lower back. Experts recognize several types of retrolisthesis and many possible treatments.

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1. Types

There are three types of retrolisthesis:

  • Partial retrolisthesis occurs when one vertebra slides backward from either the vertebra above or below it.
  • Complete retrolisthesis describes a vertebra slipping backward from the vertebrae above and below it.
  • Staircase retrolisthesis occurs when a vertebra moves backward from the vertebra above it but ahead of the vertebra below it.

Additionally, doctors define the location where the retrolisthesis occurred using one of three terms: cervical refers to the neck and shoulders, lumbar to the lower back, and thoracic to the middle of the spine.

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