Retrolisthesis treatment

Updated November 21, 2016

Retrolisthesis is a posterior displacement of one vertebrae in the back; it is typically described as one vertebra that slides backwards onto the vertebra below. It is mainly found in the cervical spine and lumbar region or, more rarely, in the thoracic spine. Retrolisthesis can occur from degenerative changes in the spine, or it can be caused by trauma. It is a painful condition that negatively affects the quality of life of the sufferer.

About Retrolisthesis Treatments

The treatments for retrolisthesis depend on the severity of the injury, as partial retrolisthesis is also possible. The treatment will vary according to the doctor treating it as well. An orthopedist or chiropractor may recommend medications or non-invasive treatments, while a neurosurgeon may suggest more aggressive treatment options.

Chiropractic Adjustment

Patients with retrolisthesis can seek treatment from a chiropractor to reposition the vertebra in order to reduce the stress on the soft tissues of the spine and to reduce irritation of the nerves. According to, chiropractic adjustment has been shown to bring about "a significant reduction of retrolisthesis displacement." Because proper position has to be maintained during chiropractic adjustments, the chiropractor can use several techniques to correct the position of the affected vertebrae.

Medications and Traditional Treatments

Patients who seek the help of an orthopedist or general practitioner may receive medication to manage pain or they may receive ongoing physiotherapy. Doctors of all types may also recommend quitting smoking for those patients who smoke cigarettes, as it can cause further joint deterioration and damage. Additionally, weight reduction is often recommended in order to take pressure off of the vertebra. Vitamin and mineral supplements are also encouraged, as those with retrolisthesis have soft tissue damage that nutrients can help repair. Patients should take a supplement with copper, manganese, vitamin A, vitamin C and zinc.

Myofascial Release

Chiropractors and occupational or physical therapists may also use myofascial release to help patients. Those seeking gentler treatments may wish to start with myofascial release before progressing to more invasive treatments. Myofascial release is an applied kinesiology treatment that involves a therapist or doctor placing pressure on myofascia, which typically results in a restorative function.

Microcurrent Therapy

Microcurrent therapy is often prescribed by doctors and chiropractors to manage pain and repair tissue. Microcurrent therapy uses small electric currents to produce electrical signals similar to those that naturally occur when the body is repairing damaged tissues in order to enhance the healing process. Microcurrent therapy can reduce swelling and inflammation, mask acute pain, release muscle trigger points and improve soft tissue regeneration.


Surgery can be a last resort treatment for those suffering from retrolisthesis. If a physical tear of tissues is present, then a surgeon may decide to operate to repair it.

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About the Author

Kendall Olsen has been writing for more than 20 years She is a University of Missouri-St. Louis Gateway Writing Project Fellow and has published instructional materials with the McDonald Publishing Company. Olsen holds an Ed.S. in educational technology, an M.Ed. in secondary English curriculum and instruction, a B.S. in elementary education and a B.A. in art history.