Retrolisthesis is a condition of the back where there is a posterior displacement of one vertebral body that leads to back pain and other symptoms.

This is the opposite of Spondylolisthesis which is the anterior displacement.

Displacement of the vertebrae can be found in the cervical [neck] and lumbar [lower back].

Less often retrolistheisis can be seen in the thoracic area [mid back].

Joint stability is a large concern, worsening displacement can be concerning to the health of the patient.



Symptoms often vary between patients

  • Back pain
  • Back stiffness
  • Tingling in back
  • Difficulty with walking
  • Pain after sitting for periods of time
  • Difficulty with movement
  • Neurological signs



1.)  Partial

  • One vertebra is posterior
  • Partial refers to the severity of the change
  • Typically seen only to the body of the spinal segment adjacent
  • Compared to the vertebra either above or below

2.)  Complete

  • One vertebra is posterior
  • Complete refers to the severity of the change
  • Typically seen when positioning is posterior to both the vertebral body
  • Compared to the vertebra both above or below

3.)  Stairstepped

  • One vertebra is posterior
  • Stairstepped refers to the severity of the change
  • Typically seen only to the body of the above
  • Yet it is anterior to the one below


Grade 1 – up to 1/4 of posterior displacement

Grade 2 – between 1/4 and 1/2 of posterior displacement

Grade 3 – 1/2 to 2/4 of posterior displacement

Grade 4 – 3/4 to 1 or total occlusion of posterior displacement



  • X-ray is essential for diagnosis
  • CT scan is a more exact evaluation of the vertebral bodies.



Heat or Warmth placed on area

Physical Therapy


  • Nsaids
  • Tylenol
  • Stronger pain medication in some cases

Back injections

Surgery in some cases

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