The management of sciatica due to lumbar nerve root compromise remains controversial, probably because few well-controlled studies of conservative management have been performed. This preliminary study assesses the efficacy of epidural injections of 80 mg triamcinolone acetonide plus 0.5% procaine hydrochloride in saline, administered via the caudal route, in a double-blind, placebo controlled trial with 1 year follow-up. Twenty-three patients were entered into the study: 12 received treatment and 11 placebo. The active group showed significant pain relief (P = 0.02) and a significant increase in mobility (P = 0.01) at 4 weeks, which resulted in improved quality of life (P = 0.02). At 1 year, subjective and objective measures improved in both groups. The improvement was greater in the actively treated group, but only the objective assessment (straight leg raise) was statistically significant.