Retrolisthesis: What You Should Know

What Is Cervical Retrolisthesis?

Cervical retrolisthesis (also known as cervical radiculopathy) is a condition where there are abnormal changes in the nerves that run from your neck down into your spinal cord. These nerve roots have been damaged due to trauma or disease such as cancer, which may cause pain when moving the head. If left untreated, these abnormalities can lead to paralysis and even death.

The symptoms of cervical retrolisthesis vary depending on the type of damage, but they include:

Numbness or tingling in the affected area

Weakness or numbness in other parts of your body (especially arms and legs)

Difficulty swallowing, speaking, breathing or walking (sometimes referred to as “motor neuron disease”)

How Can I Tell if My Nerves Are Affected?

If you experience any of the following symptoms, then you may have cervical retrolisthesis:

A feeling of weakness or numbness in one part of your body, especially your hands and feet. Sometimes this sensation will spread up through your whole body.

For example, if you feel weak in one arm, it’s possible that the same thing is happening with some of your nerves in that arm.

You might not notice any symptoms at all unless something causes them to worsen. This worsening may happen after an accident or trauma, but may also occur gradually over time.

What Causes Cervical Retrolisthesis?

The most common cause of cervical retrolisthesis is the degeneration of intervertebral discs in your neck. As you grow older, these discs can weaken, dry out and shrink. This can place too much pressure on your spinal cord and cause nerve damage. Another common cause is a “crack” in one of your vertebrae in your neck. This may not cause any pain, but it can lead to serious damage as the nerves become trapped between two of your bones. In some cases, retrolisthesis is caused by tumors or cysts that are pressing on these nerves.

What Are the Different Types of Cervical Retrolisthesis?

There are three different types of retrolisthesis, and each one is caused by something different. Here are the main types of retrolisthesis:

Type 1 – The most common type occurs when one or more of your intervertebral discs in your neck have weakened and bulged out and placed pressure on your spinal cord and surrounding nerves.

Type 2 – This type is caused by a crack that forms in one of your vertebrae. These cracks are usually the result of degenerative disc disease, but can also occur from other causes such as trauma or congenital conditions.

Type 3 – The least common type of retrolisthesis is caused by a tumor or cyst that presses on your spinal cord and surrounding nerves.

What Is the Treatment for Cervical Retrolisthesis?

The treatment for retrolisthesis will depend on the exact cause of your condition. For example, if a tumor is causing your symptoms, then it’s likely you’ll need surgery to remove the growth. In other cases, rest and medication can help relieve your symptoms. If you have a retrolisthesis caused by a cracked vertebrae or weakening discs, then surgery may be an option for you to fuse the affected region of your spine and stabilize the surrounding area.

How Can I Protect Myself From Cervical Retrolisthesis?

Some of the best ways you can protect your neck from developing retrolisthesis is to avoid accidents and trauma. Always wear your seat belt while driving and make sure you wear a helmet when participating in sports or other high-impact physical activities. It also helps to strengthen the muscles in your upper body, since strong core muscles can help support your neck. Don’t smoke and try to keep your body weight at a healthy level, since obesity can put additional stress on your spine.

When Should I See a Doctor?

Most people experience neck pain from time to time, but severe or frequent pain that lasts for several days should be checked out by your doctor. If you begin to notice numbness, weakness or loss of balance in yourself or another person, then seek medical attention right away.

Cervical retrolisthesis can be a serious condition that requires treatment by a medical professional. Don’t try to diagnose or treat yourself, since doing so may make your condition worse.

In the early stages, many people have found that their symptoms go away with simple home treatments and adjustments to their lifestyle. However, if you’re in pain or experiencing other symptoms, see your physician right away.

Sources & references used in this article:

Exploratory evaluation of the effect of axial rotation, focal film distance and measurement methods on the magnitude of projected lumbar retrolisthesis on plain film … by RR Coleman, EJ Cremata Jr, MA Lopes… – Journal of chiropractic …, 2014 – Elsevier

The Truth About Adult Scoliosis: What You Need to Know About History, Treatment Options, and How to Prevent Progression by A Strauss – 2018 –

Cervical Spine: Tricks and Traps: 60 Radiological Exercises for Students and Practitioners by JF Bonneville, F Cattin – 2012 –

MR imaging and radiographic imaging of degenerative spine disorders and spine alignment by F Galbusera, A Lovi, T Bassani… – Magnetic Resonance …, 2016 –

Iconography and Text with Corresponding Schemes by JF Bonneville, F Cattin – Cervical Spine: Tricks and Traps, 1990 – Springer

Spinopelvic sagittal balance: what does the radiologist need to know? by LG Savarese, R Menezes-Reis, GP Bonugli… – Radiologia …, 2020 – SciELO Brasil