Purpose To evaluate if adding clonidine to a standard nerve root block containing local anaesthetic and steroid improved the outcome of patients with severe lumbar nerve root pain secondary to MRI proven lumbar disc prolapse. Methods We undertook a single blind, prospective, randomised controlled trial evaluating 100 consecutive patients with nerve root pain secondary to lumbar disc prolapse undergoing trans-foraminal epidural steroid injection either with or without the addition of clonidine. 50 patients were allocated to each arm of the study. The primary outcome measure was the avoidance of a second procedure- repeat injection or micro-discectomy surgery. Secondary outcome measures were also studied: pain scores for leg and back pain using a visual analogue scale (VAS), the Roland Morris Disability Questionnaire (RMDQ) and the Measure Your Own Medical Outcome Profile (MYMOP). Follow up was carried out at 6 weeks, 6 months and 1 year. Results No serious complications occurred. Of the 50 patients who received the addition of clonidine, 56% were classified as successful injections, with no further intervention required, as opposed to 40% who received the standard injection. This difference did not reach statistical significance (p=0.109, chi-squared test). All secondary measures showed no statistically significant differences between the groups except curiously, the standard group who had been classified as successful had better leg pain relief than the clonidine group (p=0.026) at 1 year. Conclusions This pilot study has shown a 16% treatment effect with adding clonidine to lumbar nerve root blocks and that it is a safe injectate for this purpose.