Retrolisthesis means that one of the spinal bones (vertebrae) has moved backwards beneath the spinal bone above it. Imagine a stack of rectangles arranged neatly one on top of the other. If you are looking at this stack from the side, a rectangle pushed backwards relative to the rectangle above it, is a bit like what is happening in the spine with retrolisthesis. The word comes from the combination of "retro" (meaning backwards or behind) and "listhesis," meaning to slip or slide.
X-rays of the spine may show retrolisthesis even in people who feel fine. On the other hand, slippage of a vertebra may cause pressure on a nerve or the spinal cord. Retrolisthesis may accompany a fracture of the spine after a trauma.
Treatment of retrolisthesis depends on its severity and the presence or absence of symptoms. For example, if retrolisthesis is discovered after X-rays are performed but no relevant symptoms are present, no treatment may be necessary. If there is numbness, tingling or weakness in the arms or legs, your doctor may recommend an injection of a corticosteroid or even surgery to re-establish normal alignment and stability. For fractures associated with retrolithesis, a brace or surgery (or both) may be recommended.