Spondylolisthesis, Anterolisthesis, and Retrolisthesis: Understanding the Difference

Anterolisthesis, spondylolisthesis

Spondylolisthesis, anterolisthesis, and retrolisthesis are related conditions and their terms are often used interchangeably. This can be confusing and sometimes outright wrong. We’ll review the differences between these terms below.


Spondylolisthesis is a condition characterized by the displacement (slipping) of one vertebra over the one below it. This typically occurs in the lower back, most commonly in the lumbar region. The terms anterolisthesis and retrolisthesis are specific types of spondylolisthesis that differentiate the direction of slippage.


Anterolisthesis refers to the forward movement of a vertebra relative to the one below it.


Retrolisthesis is the opposite of anterolisthesis, involving the backward movement of a vertebra relative to the one below it.

About the Author

Dave Harrison, MD

Dr. Harrison is a board certified Emergency Physician with a part time appointment at San Francisco General Medical Center and is an Assistant Clinical Professor-Volunteer at the UCSF School of Medicine. Dr. Harrison attended medical school at Tufts University and completed his Emergency Medicine residency at the University of Southern California. Dr. Harrison manages the editorial process for SpineInfo.com.