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

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


Symptoms often vary between patients and this includes the level of back pain, ability to move, exercise, and work. In many cases, symptoms can match the X-ray findings. But it is surprising how many people with significant symptoms may have very little X-ray findings and yet, others with minimal symptoms have severe findings.

–  Back pain – shooting pains or dull pains
–  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


1.)  Grade 1 – up to 1/4 of posterior displacement

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

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

4.)  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.


1.)  Stretching

2.)  Heat or Warmth placed on the area

3.)  Physical Therapy

4.)  Medications

–  Tylenol
–  Stronger pain medication in some cases

5.)  Back injections

6.)  Surgery in some cases