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.


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.

spine xray vertebrae franckreporter / Getty Images


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