The p38 MAP kinases are a family of serine/threonine protein kinases that play important roles in cellular responses to external stress signals. Since their identification about 10 years ago, much has been learned of the activation and regulation of the p38 MAP kinase pathways. Inhibitors of two members of the p38 family have been shown to have anti-inflammatory effects in preclinical disease models, primarily through the inhibition of the expression of inflammatory mediators. Several promising compounds have also progressed to clinical trials. In this review, we provide an overview of the role of p38 MAP kinases in stress-activated pathways and the progress towards clinical development of p38 MAP kinase inhibitors in the treatment of inflammatory diseases.