Retrolisthesis is a misalignment of the spine in which one vertebra slips backward in relation to the vertebrae above and/or below it. Although it may occur anywhere along the spine, retrolisthesis is most commonly seen in the cervical and lumbar regions. The symptoms of this condition vary widely, depending on the location and extent of the misalignment.
According to headbacktohealth.com, orthopedists and chiropractors usually see three types of retrolisthesis: partial, stair-stepped and complete. In the partial form, one vertebra has slipped backward in relation to either the vertebra immediately above or below it. Stair-stepped retrolisthesis is a condition in which one vertebra is displaced behind the one above it but in front of the vertebra below it. In complete retrolisthesis, the affected vertebra is positioned backward in relation to those vertebrae above and below it.
Posture and Movement
Retrolisthesis may result in damage to posture and range of motion, the extent of which are likely to be tied to the degree of vertebral displacement. A feeling of structural instability may contribute to compensatory adjustments in the way you stand or hold yourself. Accordingly, your ability to move freely may be compromised to some extent if your retrolisthesis involves a serious level of displacement.
Although some patients with this form of spinal misalignment report little pain, others report that it is constant and worsens with certain types of movement. However, much depends on the degree to which the retrolisthesis causes contact between soft tissue and nerve roots adjacent to the area of misalignment. If the misplaced vertebra is not coming into close contact with either, the level of pain is likely to be negligible.
If the misaligned vertebra is exerting constant pressure on the nerve root that exits the spine at that particular level, a wide array of symptoms may be experienced in the areas to which that nerve travels. In the lumbar region, this could involve tingling, numbness or pain in the hip, buttock, thigh or leg, while cervical retrolisthesis could affect the neck, shoulder or arm.
Causes and Treatment
Retrolisthesis can be caused by physical trauma, chronically poor posture and even nutritional deficiencies. Nonsurgical treatment options include chiropractic manipulation to return the vertebra to proper alignment, weight reduction, dietary changes, nutritional supplementation and microcurrent therapy to relieve pain and help repair tissue. In extreme cases, surgery may be required to restore proper alignment to the spine. If a chronic area of vertebral weakness is detected, spinal fusion may be recommended.